I had no idea there was a Microsoft Office World Championship:
At the world competition — and the nationals of more developed testing nations like the US and the UK — instead of following a test step by step, the students are given a bunch of assets (like datasets or images), a sheet of basic instructions, and a finished document, which they then have to exactly re-create. This shift, according to Certiport, rewards true fluency with the program, rather than rote memorization of the basic test.
In a sense, this entire competition is really a companion piece to Certiport's real business of offering 'certification' programmes to schools which have committed to the notion that it makes sense to teach teenagers to use the sort of software they'd actually face in a real working environment. The fact that it's now 30 years since Microsoft Excel was launched and it's still taken as read that if they're using a spreadsheet it'll be Excel is pretty remarkable, but we live in a world where even free Excel-alikes like Google Sheets and LibreOffice/OpenOffice don't have much traction in the typical office. 1 2
New Zealand, relatively new to the Certiport program, sent a team sourced entirely from one high school: Avondale College, in Auckland. The team wore all black, with kiwi bird badges on the breasts of their matching polo shirts.
I'm thinking that the Excel haka would be quite a thing to see…
My suspicion is that they might be used, but unless they're genuinely seamless in their ability to create and load Excel's file formats whatever work someone does in another spreadsheet is rendered invisible as soon as you want to share it with someone - inside or outside your business - whose computer defaults to using a pre-installed version of Excel to load the file. Throw in the learned helplessness of non-experts when faced with an unfamiliar user interface, and that's a tough issue to get round for potential competitors. ↩
For what it's worth, when I'm at work I use Excel a lot, simply because it is pretty flexible and good at what it does. Going back a while, for personal use back in the days when there was still a question about which office suite was going to win on Windows 95, I preferred to use Lotus 123 Release 5, part of what was by then IBM's Lotus SmartSuite alongside what used to be Samna's Ami Pro word processor and the Lotus Organizer personal information manager. The thing was, though, that in work environments if we had an office suite it was Microsoft Office and so if I did work something up in 123 it'd end up in .xls format. ↩