Office 2013's unhealthy obsession with an internet connection

17 Oct 2012
Office workers

Simon Jones wonders if Microsoft's latest Office suite puts too much emphasis on connectivity

Much of Microsoft's own publicity for Office 2013 has concentrated on its connectivity.

The applications try to coax you into storing your documents online in SkyDrive or Office 365, and there are new tools to insert pictures taken from online sources. Microsoft even makes it rather difficult to find a standard install package for the preview version, instead pushing users towards a trial of Office 365 with a subscription to Office 2013 Professional or Home Premium. Sitting here in the wilds of Devon, I can't help wondering whether this risks leaving some users behind.

Microsoft obviously believes everyone nowadays has constant Wi-Fi coverage wherever they are

The File | Save As command, for example, now interposes an extra step whereby you can choose SkyDrive, Other Web Location or Computer, but if you don’t currently have an internet connection then most of these options are useless to you.

Microsoft obviously believes everyone nowadays has constant Wi-Fi coverage wherever they are, and that if they don’t have Wi-Fi then they’ll have a good 3G signal or 3G dongle for their computer.

However, the place where I'm currently holidaying in Devon has no Wi-Fi, and getting a decent 3G signal would be a miracle (we’re lucky if we can get a one-bar GPRS signal for more than two minutes at a time). I can only collect email on my phone twice a day, when I walk the dogs to the top of the hill.

Apart from us deep country dwellers, there’s definitely a whole class of mobile workers who won’t have internet coverage all the time, and another class of users who won’t want to trust online data storage, preferring to rely on their own hardware for security, confidentiality or simply for robustness.

I don’t think I’d like to visit a client’s site and have to rely on retrieving a vital document from the cloud – I’d much prefer to know that it was safely stored on my own hardware. I might have a backup in the cloud, or employ it to synchronise files between computers, but I’m not about to rely on it for all my storage needs anytime soon.

As Windows is able to determine whether or not it has a network connection, might it not be a good idea for Office to take notice of this rather than offering options that lead to the dead-end message "YOU’RE NOT CONNECTED TO A NETWORK". Have you only just worked that out?