Why should Microsoft enhance Excel?

Lots of people are bemoaning features, lack of features, or bugs in Excel. (not me of course ;-))

Anyway the thought struck me, why should they bother?

I’m not saying they have or they havent. I’m not saying they should or they shouldn’t.

I am asking what’s in it for Microsoft?

We’ll all end up updating eventually right?

How big an impact would it have on their finances?

Whats the cost benefit?

Would that money invested in developer effort be rewarded with

  • more sales?
  • faster take up?
  • sales at a higher price?
  • Reduce the rate of decline of MS Offices market share?
  • Reduce Vistas impact on OS market share free fall?
  • cross selling opportunities?
  • all of the above?
  • Others?

I’ve put some thoughts about their ribbon investment in the new traditional place.

I know kudos-wise if everyone on-line exclaimed wow Excel v n is mega super-de-duper fan-chuffiin-tastic, that would be great. But business-wise does it stack up?

And don’t be quoting any ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’ claptrap. Those are great for motivational speakers, Return On Investment is what keeps firms in business.

  • Where is the ROI on catching up with OOo in worksheet functions? (or UI),
  • Where is the ROI in updating VBA?
  • Where is the ROI in making SUMIFS as powerful as SUMPRODUCT?
  • Where is the ROI in providing multiple UIs to suit multiple uses/users?
  • Where is the ROI in fixing charting?

Personally I think many of these things would pay back, and I hope OpenOffice eating their lunch will encourage them to divert resources to these sorts of areas.

(I haven’t considered the opportunity cost of investing in these over some of their other technologies (search? Yahoo!?), feel free to do so in the comments)

What do you think? On an ROI basis what 3 things would give the best rate return? why?

Is it even worth investing in desktop apps? or do you think the cloud/unimind will solve all that?

let us know



6 Responses to “Why should Microsoft enhance Excel?”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    None unless OOo or some other competitor FORCES Microsoft to improve. As long as Microsoft has an effective monopoly, product development need only proceed as

    1. eat a big meal followed by an Exlax chaser,

    2. wait an hour,

    3. ship product.

    As you said, we’ll all upgrade eventually.

    Only a realistic threat of losing serious market share will compell Microsoft to devote development resources to anything other than product differentiation (read: less than useless UI ‘improvements’).

  2. Bob Phillips Says:

    I think it is imperative that MS listen and act otherwise there will be a fall in RoI at some point, and as recent events have shown us, you can see it is getting worse but it’s still alright isn’t it; then suddenly it tips and the whole lot fails big-time (in other words, when your profitability can be spectacular but is predicated upon volume sales, you can still be shipping vast numbers and suddenly start losing money, then you hit a spiral).

    The reason I believe that it is imperative is two-fold,

    1) MS need an immediate return. Sure we will wll install Excel 2007 eventually (although I am advising clients that they can afford to give it a miss and see if 2009 is any better), but MS need that money today to fund the next release

    2) people are seriously considering OOo. Even we Excel addicts are looking seriously at it, I guess we all at least play with it, and customers are doing the same, at some point the line could get crossed for enough to have an impact.

    The problem is the political power plays in MS IMO. I am sure that given enough leeway, the Excel guys would listen to the real market and give us real functional sway, but they have no power, Net and Office hold the power (look at Sinofsky’s new role). How many times have internal politics been the decisive catalyst in the downfall of mega-powers?

  3. Charles Says:

    I am an optimist: in my view the Excel team are really trying to move the product forward.
    They were ambitious with Excel 2007, certainly compared with previous versions.
    (Probably too ambitious for the schedule, given the rather buggy nature of XL2007.)
    I suspect that making major changes to a product of the size and complexity of Excel takes more time than the business can tolerate, so you have to do it in steps (think of XL 2007 as being the alpha version of Excel 2009).
    And OK, I imagine that some things like the graphics engine and the ribbon were foisted on the XL team by the suits, which did not help.

  4. Ross Says:

    Where I work we are upgreading Visio to 2007, thats becasue it has a new good value stream mapping function, and for us that is usful. People will upgread it the product adds value.
    What new feature of Excel do this? If anything they remove value for most users?
    Maybe the ribbon is aimmed at getting New Users!

    I would like MS to do more in the feild of SS quality and auditing.

  5. Simon Says:

    I’m with you Charles and Bob, I think the Excel team are up for it, but are being hobbled by other forces.

  6. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Microsoft is a huge money machine and to please its stock owners they need to pump out new versions of every software at a high pace.

    Next, MOSS and .NET/VSTO are new platforms that MSFT invest in and to meet the requirements for this softwares the Office teams needs to release new versions of Office. Office 2007 is a typical version that reflect this need.

    As long as thick clients exist then I believe Excel will rule the Windows desktop within the nearest foreseeable future.

    But as for the public sector I wish they can switch to OOo asap and save some money of the license costs or negoiate better terms with Microsoft.

    Kind regards,

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