I'm still using word 2000 which is now a feisty 17 years old. It still prepares basic business letters other documents perfectly fine, though. And that's the problem. There really is no reason to upgrade to new software when the old software works just fine. Bill Gates despises me.
So is this cloud computing the "Next Big Thing"? I'm not so sure. I think for a lot of enterprise solutions, big companies, and even medium size and small companies, the idea of renting software may be appealing. So long as there is competition in the marketplace, prices will remain competitive. However since Microsoft Word sort of dominates the market for word processing, they can basically charge whatever they want for their software and people likely won't switch to other alternatives.
Open Office will work with Microsoft documents, although my understanding it that the company "supporting" it has been sold once already. I went to download a copy recently, and it tried to download a lot of additional junkware along with a copy of Open Office. I don't actually use the program so much as I use it to open .docx documents and quickly convert them to .doc documents and then edit those in Word 2000.
I suppose many younger people today probably think this cloud computing is a really cool deal, is it floats a lot of the data and software requirements into the cloud and, of course, is trendy and new. However coming from the era where I learned to program Fortran on IBM Punch Cards and dicked around with Digital PDP-8's and PDP-11s in high school, the liberation of the personal computer has a profound and deep meaning for me.
When the personal computer came out, it was a very liberating experience. For the first time in my life I owned a computer lock, stock and barrel. It was mine, I didn't need permission to use it, and I didn't have to pay anybody to program it for me. It was the anti-mainframe computer in an IBM era, and none of us in that era were very fond of IBM and its monopoly practices. We wanted to liberate the computer for everyone and break free of any monopolistic bonds or corporate oppression.
Perhaps the younger generation today doesn't feel that way, having not gone through that experience. Today they grow up with a plethora of computing devices including a smartphone which is almost placed in their hand at birth. They give little thought to the companies that control these devices, how they control our data, and how they harvest our data and use it to manipulate and control us.
Maybe to them, cloud computing seems like an interesting thing that has some practical advantages over traditional methods. To me it seems like another opportunity for Microsoft and Apple and Google to put their hand on my wallet or at the very least listen in to my conversations and data and use that to market and manipulate me.
This is why I'm glad going to be retiring from the patent business. Very soon now I will no longer need to use any of this software, other than occasionally crank up my ancient version of Word to generate a document or use my equally ancient version of QuickBooks to balance my checkbook. And as my life and finances get simpler and simpler over time, my need to use these things may be less and less.
But for younger people, it is still a conundrum. Do you pay Microsoft $10 a month in order to use Word (or wherever it is they charge)? Or do you bite the bullet and use some other alternative software - or is there any alternative software?
Like I said there are alternatives out there that are often free or inexpensive. OpenOffice can be downloaded and it will perform most of the functions of Microsoft Office at no charge. This has require a modicum of talent for you to install the software however. Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional is available online freely and performs most of the functions of Adobe Acrobat. There are also free 3rd party readers and the like which can be used (Adobe Reader has turned into a computer locking turd of a program in its last iteration).
Older versions of QuickBooks work very well, although they're not compatible with newer versions if you're interfacing with your accountant (and why this is so, well, you guess). From what I understand QuickBooks is also gone to a subscription model, at least for the "enterprise" version, with everything in the cloud, asking you to pay a certain amount per month rather than a fee for one-time purchase of the software.
As for cloud storage, I have experimented with both Google and Microsoft Hotmail storage features, with some success. However I was never comfortable with where my data was located or how the data was uploaded and stored. It seem like a pretty clunky solution to a problem that was really not very well defined.
The big problem I think for the individual is subscription fatigue. If you were paying so many dollars a month for Microsoft Word, so many for Adobe, so many for QuickBooks, eventually the subscription costs add up to tens of dollars or maybe even hundreds of dollars a month, which is an awful lot of money. It's like having another cable and cell phone bill on top of your cable and cell phone bill. People go broke not with huge purchases but a little bit at a time. And for the middle class American, so many "small" subscription fees and designer coffees chisel away at our wealth.
But I suppose, if these companies get too greedy with their subscription fees, someone will come along with an alternative and offered to the public for less money. But we'll have to wait and see. No doubt these companies will try to use proprietary formats, patents and other intellectual property, as well as other means to try to lock in their clients to their particular play pen or ecosystem, much as Apple tries to lock their customers in today.
For myself, I'm not so sure I'm eager to get involved in cloud computing.
And oh by the way, I forgot to mention the most obvious flaw with cloud computing: What happens when you are outside the range of internet service? Not only will your applications not work, you won't have access to your data. Your smartphone, tablet, and laptop will turn into bricks, much as the "Thin Client" computers did at the law firm, when the server crashed.
UPDATE: A reader writes with the following helpful links:
LibreOffice is what you want not OpenOffice.
It's my understanding most of the Oo developers went there as Oo dissolved.
There is free, stripped down, "cloud" version of MS Office:
and its Google equivalent:
Sign in with a Microsoft or Google account
All storage providers look at you data, for reasons good and bad.
The only one that doesn't is Spider Oak.
Myself, I will stick with my current programs. You will pry my "install" DVD-ROMS out of my cold, dead, hands. And many of these older programs are still available on eBay. It took me over two decades to learn MS-Word, I ain't starting over at this point in my life.
Funny how the DVD is considered "old tech" these days. Geez, I remember when CDs first came out, and we thought it was science fiction! All that data! On one little shiny disc!
P.S. - the blogger website is basically a simplified HTML word processor. It illustrates how you can put almost any program on the "web" and run it as a website. No longer does a "program" need to run on a particular O/S. Ironically, I wonder if many of the servers running these online versions of software are running.....UNIX. Maybe!
UPDATE: DropBox is talking about doing an IPO. Here we go again. I am only aware of this company because their "app" came pre-installed on my Samsung Galaxy (I never use it). DropBox got out of the "free" storage for civilians business as Google and Microsoft have pretty much swallowed that up. Instead, they are pushing business solutions and smart-sync of local devices with the cloud - and yes, I wrote Patents on that stuff decades ago. Good Luck DropBox!