Microsoft is reportedly thinking of ways to develop a version of its Office suite for netbooks. According to Network World, Microsoft business division chief Stephen Elop implied that the goal is to come up with a low cost version of Office that provides limited functionality. After all, who wants to pay hundreds of dollars for a version of Microsoft Office that will run on a $300 laptop?

But I’m hoping Microsoft has at least one other thing in mind. If the leaked screenshots of Office 14 (the upcoming version of Microsoft Office) are anything to go by, it looks like Microsoft plans to continue using its new ribbon-style toolbars, first introduced in Office 2007. And that’s fine if you’re using a desktop computer with a 1280 x 1024 pixel display. But most netbooks have 1024 x 600 or 1024 x 576 pixel displays. And that ribbon interface at the top of the screen takes up a lot of room.

I’d hate to see a version of MS Office dstributed for netbooks that doesn’t come with a lower profile toolbar designed to maximize your on-screen workspace. Editing spreadsheets is a whole lot less fun when you can only see two or three rows at a time.

Update: OK, I’ll admit it. I may just be a crotchety old computer user who fears change here. I’m not a big fan of the visual look of the new Microsoft Office ribbon. But I also haven’t used a version of MS Office newer than Office 2003 (while I have spent some money on Windows licenses in the last few years,, Zoho, and Google Docs have served my word processing and spreadsheet needs, so I haven’t felt the urge to spend any money on Office). As some commentors have pointed out, the ribbon might not be as chunky as I initially thought and it’s not hard to hide. I’ll let y’all duke it out in the comments. 

The main thrust of the story, though, is that Microsoft is staking netbooks into consideration as it makes business decisions. And that’s generally a good thing. If the company had realized that people might want low power, cheaper computers a few years ago, Windows Vista might have run as well on netbooks as Windows XP and Windows 7 do.

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29 replies on “Microsoft working on netbook specific version of Office?”

  1. Office has enough SKUs as it is; I’d rather them just rename Student/Teacher edition to something more like Office Express (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint), and sell it for $100. (FWIW, I’m running Office 2007 Ultimate with Visio and Project added on; it’s really overkill, especially since I’m down to 1.5 GB left of disk space. Access is IMO pointless on any machine, and Publisher really needs more screen space, plus MS is phasing out Outlook as a consumer mail application)

  2. Office’s biggest competitor is … itself.

    Even MS acknowledge that. I’d agree as I still use Office 97 – less space and a lot faster to load/run.

    Worst thing about Office is the bugs that continued in each new version while they chugged more “features” onto it.

    Now I use OpenOffice unless there’s something only Office can do. (That would be macros that they don’t support or changed in newer versions – ever programmed macros? the document model was horrendously inconsistent and treated headers, footers, tables etc in a myriad of confusing ways —- aarrrgggghhh, bad memories come flooding back).

    For the price, and fair degree of compatibility, OpenOffice is a real winner and should be on everyone’s shopping list.

  3. ALl you MS Office lovers out there should really try, des everthing you needs, works better, less crashes, faster bug fixes and most importantly it doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, I would never attempt to use MS Office again because Openoffice does everything just as well.

    If you have never tried it visit and give it a try…

    1. BlaBlaBla… same marketing bullshit.

      You know.. your problem is there are people that really TRIED this POS. And they all (inclusing myself) say that its slow, bloated and non-functional.

      1. any pointers on exactly which bits were “slow, bloated and non-functional”?

        that’s a pretty broad statement you made. if the “non-functional” bits were things that 99.99% of users would never need, would that really matter?

        i have yet to see any of these programs perform badly importing simple MSOffice spreadsheets, documents or databases that most people would want to use.

        perpetuating “facts”, using comments like “they all… say it’s slow” etc, only harm your argument when there are thousands of people downloading and happily using this program daily.

        accept that for many people, OpenOffice is a valid choice based on price and features they require to perform productive work.

        1. “Don’t feed the troll” wayne… I just did couple of posts above you… oh well 😉

        2. It IS bloated. Java is part of the issue and really, OOo has more features than most normal people will ever need… Java may be much faster on the execution side than it used to be but it’s still a relative memory hog. I much prefer Abiword. Much lighter on system resources and has plenty of functionality.

  4. 1) there are derivatives out in the wild that are more “MS” compliant (google will help).
    2) MS dropped office prizes heavily last autumn (at least in switzerland) e.g office home and student (3 licences) retails now for about chf120 ($110) or even less.

  5. Open Office is terrific, FREE, and will save in Microsoft’s doc format if needed. Why anyone would spend money on MS Office is beyond me.

  6. >takes up a lot of room.
    Wrong! Do you have a ruler?
    Ribbon ~= 2.5 toolbars. And it’s final and mximum.
    When you open any Office 2003 appliction you have 2 toolbars – Standard and Formatting. Any additional toolbar (Drawing / Review / Tables) and they take MORE spce than Ribbon!

    The Ribbon also adjusts to window size and can easyly be hidden unlike tookbars.

    1. Uh, I only have one toolbar. It is standard AND formatting on the same line. Takes up a LOT less space than the ribbon.

      1. You can customize the quick access toolbar with whatever commands you like, then minimize the ribbon. That’s what I do on my netbook, and it works great. And what others have said about the ribbon adjusting to screen resolution is a VERY welcome addition!

        Of course, if you don’t like the ribbon, non-standards-compliant file formats, or paying an absurd amount of money for your software, then MS Office isn’t for you anyway. [=^)

        As a software trainer, I have to say, I LOVE Office 2007. It’s much easier to learn for most people, and even the ones who hate the ribbon going into training usually like it by the time they start using it extensively. The old menu and toolbar system was becoming strained, IMHO.

        1. at work we’ve had dozens of requests from accountants and other folks who spend a long time looking at office begging us to get them a copy of ver 2003. anything but 2007. they hate it. they’ve tried it and now they realise just how much they hate it. some will even hint towards pirated versions (as 2003 is no longer available to us from our suppliers) which we won’t provide or support. some have started playing with open office.

          i avoid office like the plague myself. i stick with vim for all my documentation/notes. it has a fantastic outliner. bit of a learning curve though.

          1. Office 2007 has an inverted learning curve, due to the layout differences. I train people in how to use this software FOR A LIVING, and more than half the people walking through the door are convinced they’ll hate it forever. And so far, EVERY SINGLE ONE likes the ribbon better than the old menu/toolbar, once they’ve been trained how to use it.

            Perhaps your accountants are the oddballs of the universe, but I’m willing to bet it’s the standard attitude I face every day. It’s the same kind of people who hated the transition from DOS to Windows. Give me three hours with ’em, and see what they say. [=^D

            Unfortunately, a lot of organizations assume people “just know” how to use software, or they can “just figure it out” on their own. This isn’t true for most people.

            One thing that might be VERY helpful for your accountants is this interactive command reference guide. It’s kind of a 2003 -> 2007 dictionary, of sorts.


            I hope that helps!

          2. accounts are the oddballs of the universe? don’t know many who would disagree 🙂 but there sure are a lot of them. i work as techsupport/programmer/joat so i see the oddest of the odd.

            organisations assuming people know how to use software? bane of my life but have you tried to convince them otherwise? they will always skimp on training. when you buy hardware or software you have a shiny phusical box somewhere but when you buy training there is no visible tangible thing and some are worried that if they train staff the staff may leave taking their training with them. i thought it was best summed up with the comment. ‘what if we train people and they leave? to which the response is what if you don’t train them and they stay?’

            i do think ms has a problem. office 2007 isn’t much different than office 95. some new features but not many, it’s mostly cosmetic changes. but they have to be seen to show added value to justify the cost of upgrades. so it’s a whizz bang new interface and brand new incompatible file layouts. in the various upgrades from 95 to 2003 most accepted the file layout differences. 2007 is the first time i’ve heard so many complaints from average non technical people about file layout changes _and_ ui changes.

            thinking of it as similar to the vista revolt were people are going out of their way to avoid vista. with office 2007 they will upgrade but quite a few are now looking towards alternatives.

            not a fan of ms. have most family and friends on mac linux now as it drastically reducees the amount of time i spend supporting tech outside work.

          3. Even though I spend my day training people how to use Microsoft stuff, I own a Mac myself, and I also run Linux. I like to stay up-to-date on what’s happening out in the “real world”, since it’s easy to stay in the Microsoft bubble.

            I will say this: Microsoft has the most seamless office productivity software from a workflow standpoint, especially with the integration between Exchange, Sharepoint, Groove, and the other Office 2007 programs. While others have attempted to replicate pieces of this functionality, I haven’t seen anyone match it. Microsoft is huge, so it understands huge. [=^)

            However, only large organizations really NEED that kind of integration. But any of the smaller shops who want to do business with them will often need to be familiar with the same tools. Or, at least pretend to be. And that’s why Microsoft makes so much money.

          4. Apparently, an edit won’t show up until there’s a reply? Let’s try this…

          5. Thanks for views and URLs. It helps much as some add-on 2003-menues for 2007 to understand where the commands may be found now in 07.

            Butt still, as with Netbooks vs Fullsize Notebook or Win XP vs Vista, who on earth needs Office 2007 ? If I may buy today Office 2003 I would as it fits much better to the small netbook screens. Office 2007 is simply no gain for my needs. KISS – keep it simple & stupid is all we need.

    1. Why wold anyone want this slow bloated “thing” that isn’t even standards-compliant?

      1. I assume you mean MSOffice? Cause .odt is standard compliant. None of MS formats are… Get your facts straight.

        1. Get your facts straight. There is a reason why OOXML !standard! is bigger that ODT. ODT is loosely defined (something along the lines of “Here be Formulas! Write them as you like, we aren’t concerned about compatibility.”). It’s not some “possibility”. The lack of proper standardisation brings incompatibilities withing ODT world.
          The ODT standad was rushed with the only goal: “make it before MS does”. The quality didn’t matter.

          >None of MS formats are…
          LOL. Lying, aren’t you, Mr. Liar?

          1. Raving fanboys, rabid trolls…

            OOXML was rushed through ISO, with a lot of controversy, bribing (say “Norway”), and pressure on the ISO national bodies. My MS. So it was MS that was rushing it. There was no working implementation of their pseudo-standard at the time the standard was going through ISO. Their standard is bloated and confusing for the sore reason of making it impossible for other developers to create a compatible implementation. But hey Mr. Troll, that’s why OOo is not 100% compatible w/ .doc. It’s all reverse engineered from the MS implementation… ’cause they haven’t really published .doc as a standard.

            Well, anyway, that’s the crash course in MS way of doing business… but hey, I guss you’re all for it, so why not bend over,, grab your ankles and say ‘uncle’?


          2. ODF (aka OpenDocument) version 1.2 incorporates a comprehensive, and better-than-microsoft specification for formulas called openformula.

            Read all about it for yourself:

            Regarding Microsoft-sponsored ISO standards, this much (from the article above) is true:

            “The Office Open XML spreadsheet formula language is now part of the international standard ISO/IEC IS 29500:2008”.

            What it doesn’t tell you is that no software application … none at all … produces documents in that ISO/IEC IS 29500:2008 format.

            Even Microsoft Office doesn’t comply to the Microsoft-sponsored ISO/IEC IS 29500:2008 “standard”. No software program on earth does.

            BTW … I can’t really see how it can be called a “standard” if nothing at all implements it.

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