I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Is it time to move away from Microsoft Office and Outlook? And if so, is NOW the right time? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Microsoft or its software. I have come to rely and depend on these products for over 15 years now. I have created, saved, and filed thousands and thousands of documents and emails over the year. A perfectly organized folder structure six deep, so that my brain could attempt to navigate back to that important email message I may have filed over 6 years ago. In fact, I am so entrenched in its use that I get the shivers when I think of switching. And therein lies my problem, why should I be so locked into one product, one comany? The world of software seems to be moving in a different direction.

I have already started to move more and more towards Google, using Google Search, Google Reader, Google Web Analytics, and Google’s FeedBurner. So if I now switch to Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, will I just be throwing out one software dynasty for another?

I don’t think so and I will explain why:

  1. In the clouds - Google applications and many others now run in the clouds. Gone are the days of installing software from CDs, with registration keys and special drivers. These apps are either free or require a small monthly fee. Setup is as simple as starting your browser. All data and documents are stored on central servers and managed in the clouds. If your computer crashes, if you use a different computer in Taiwan, just navigate to the web-site of your favorite application, login and then everything is there. For example, I use Dropbox, where you can store and share files in the cloud, no more need for timely backups, as documents/files are instantly updated in the clouds and all shared computers. (n.b. you still must back up your computer and all of your own data for complete security).
  2. Open and Flexibile - These applications are open, meaning I can run a different front-end built from different software vendors without losing anything. Twitter is a great example of this. While all tweets go through Twitter, I have already tried a handful of different applications that can access, display, and add functionality to the Twitter environment. Right now I am using Tweetdeck as my preferred front-end to Twitter, but if something comes along better tomorrow, I can switch with little pain and little lost. All the real core information is kept on Twitter, everyone else is just adding functionality around this.
  3. Organization/Search - Organization and search capabilities just seem to be a whole lot better and faster in Google. Tag or label your documents and email mesages. No more need for complex folder structures to save your important docs and email messages. Other web applications such as Twitter and Delicious also have great tagging and search capabilities.
  4. New Applications - New applications are built everyday that you can easily try and plug into. No upfront charge, no lengthy setup, but all the benefit to catch on to the latest application, all without losing your data or requiring some major migration.

So this should shed some light on why I feel ready to throw out MS Office & Outlook and jump into the world of Google and Cloud Computing. BUT….maybe I’ll wait until next week :)

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