Microsoft Office Live Workspace: Dead On Arrival
November 04, 2009

I’ve written in the past about products that allow you to use Excel and Word collaboratively, even if you don’t work in the same company. Years ago, my associate and I used to synchronize our spreadsheets using the original Groove, even though we worked on different sides of the continent.  So I thought it was about time that I took Office Live Workspace for a spin – only to quickly find myself in a ditch.

Having installed the software I rebooted my computer. When I launched Internet Explorer all heck broke loose. I’m quite certain I’m in a small minority but for some reason (and by now I’m way past caring why) my system automatically started up Excel, which then stopped functioning, which automatically launched an alert to Microsoft, and then automatically restarted Excel which stopped again and launched another automated alert to Microsoft and on and on. At one point my machine was caught in the process of shutting down and notifying a series of three instances of Excel at the same time. Nothing would halt this infinite loop. Needless to say, it wasn’t happening in the background and prevented any work from happening. I tried launching Control Panel to uninstall Office Live Workspace but all the churn from Excel prevented that. I had to shut down and reboot my system.  After launching Control Panel I noticed that there was a separate Office Live patch that was installed along with the main app (a kludgy approach to kludging – eh?). Thinking it would be logical to uninstall the patch first I started that process, only to find my computer launching and shutting down Excel in a dervish-like fashion. Halting that uninstall, I uninstalled the main application successfully and then the patch. Phew!

This has got to be a joke and plays to the (bad) Windows stereotype. I find the Apple Windows-trashing ads amusing in a way, but since I have to do tech support for my kids’ Apples, I’m in the “Crash Different” camp. (I once sat in the local Apple Store waiting for my slot at the “genius” bar to take care of a the second hardware problem in two weeks on a Macbook that I could fix on any Windows notebook myself and came to the conclusion that when it came to Apple products, PT Barnum was right.) In other words, choose your poison.

Still, it’s still very frustrating that something as basic as the concept of “Office Live Workspace” should be at this stage of immaturity at this late date. I’m not thrilled with any of the alternatives to Microsoft Office, for that matter, but given the amount of money we all are paying the folks at Redmond in the form of maintenance and periodic upgrades, it reasonable to have expected something that’s better. Certainly something that isn’t a complete disaster right from the start. 

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Robert D. Kugel - SVP Research


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