A recent discussion on RWW got a number of people hot under the collar. To summarise, a post was written detailing why the author believed that Google apps was a serious threat to Microsoft office. In a fairly vitriolic response, a commenter left a message titled “Google Docs is full of fail”. His litany of alleged shortcoming for GDocs were mainly functionality ones – apparently GDocs doesn’t do what he needs it to, things that MS Office does. We have, dear audience, a debate on our hands. To this end here follows my thoughts;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our previous correspondent told us that Google docs is full of fail. While his grammar would suggest otherwise, the substance of his comment deserves response. Without wanting to mix metaphors here, I think we have a combination both of failing to compare apples with apples, and not seeing the wood for the trees.

Apples with Apples

Google docs is a very new offering that is trying to primarily be a collaborative tool. Contrary to what the previous comments would have you believe, it doesn’t intend to recreate MS Office in all its bloated functionality, rather it seeks to create a quick, intuitive and easily utilised offering. It is also SaaS and as such has the ability to be upgraded on the fly, with new features rolled out at will.

Compare this if you will to MS Office which has been in existence for decades, is primarily about creating the purty-est docs possible rather than collaboration, has a relatively steep learning cycle and has multi year release intervals. Get my drift here? They’re two different beasts entirely. Fact is that at this point in time people may well utilise both solutions, one where speed and agility are paramount and one were feature bloat is needed.

While I’m guilty in the past of having prophesied GDoc’s ascendency at MS Office’s expense, I need to clarify that my contention was based on GDocs gaining more functionality to put it in a position where it provided everything imperative that MS Office does, but in a collaboration-enabled setting.

The wood for the trees

Now hyperbole comes to the fore. We’re talking culture shift here. Paradigm change. This one is big.

GDocs is an example of where the future of computing and collaboration will be – that’s not a functionality discussion, it’s an existential one. While it is entirely valid to argue for or against GDocs based on functionality, this is a completely different argument from the one broached by the original poster: namely why Google docs is a serous threat to MS Office. It is NOT a threat because of what it does or doesn’t do at this point in time. It IS however a threat because it embodies the agility, speed, flexibility and, dare I say it, organic-ness of what will become the norm in the computing future.

For all these reasons ladies and gentlemen, I can only but concur with the original author. Google docs IS a serious threat to Microsoft Office.

Thank you

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Ben,

    Does the door not swing both ways here? For all of GOOGs ‘organic’ feel and collaborative environment, isn’t it easier to argue that adding true collaboration to the Office environment is less of a task than adding the entire set of Office functionality to GOOG docs?

    From a purely business standpoint, I’d much rather be in MS’s position than GOOGs.

    And while I agree that sooner or later all this will be in the Cloud, don’t underestimate the worth of PC cycles. In its current form, the browser is not the best place to run productivity apps. The only advantage is storage and collaboration, not personal workflow. When the Web’s speed and bandwidth increases significantly, this might change, but until then, heavy productivity apps are staying put. IMHO.


  • Thanks for the comment Paul – as you say – it’s a case of watching and waiting for now

  • Well it’s a 95% cost reduction and about 70% of the feature need. So it’s hard to argue the move to Google Apps isn’t worth it. Keep buying MSXL etc for your high end employees. You can do both if you need to. Picking a camp isn’t optimised. You don’t have to be monogamous in tech! 🙂

  • Exactly Marc. And I am prepared to use both. The only person that wins in this is the consumer tbh. If you put away the tech arguments and biases, it’s simply more choice, which is good.

    I’m happy to use Google apps in IE on Windows running on a Mac. It’s a free world!

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