Right now, Google Docs & Spreadsheets does not, I repeat, does not compete with Microsoft Office.
Nor does the Google Apps suite of applications, which includes the aforementioned Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
Simply offering a one-for-one, like-for-like suite of applications doesn’t really add up to something on a par with Microsoft Office, largely because Office is so vast.
However, that doesn’t preclude Google Apps building towards something bigger over time.
Currently we have Rich Internet Applications, certainly the Adobe Apollo flavoured kind offering some very interesting possibilities that Google may well look to explore in the coming months and years.
But despite the obviousness and the sheer scale of the non-trival task of going toe-to-toe with Microsoft in the office applications’ arena, the question still keeps cropping up:
“[Eric Schmidt] says [Google are] announcing something,… a presentation feature for Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Google is focusing on collaboration and tying the new presentation feature into those features with Docs and Spreadsheets. John [Battelle] said this ‘completes the office suite’. Eric dodged the question about this being a big competitor to Microsoft Office, but John made sure to get an answer.”
And there’s good reason to dodge the question, because I’m pretty sure Eric Schmidt would need to answer the question with a question of his own, that being: “When? Now, or in the future?” Which might sort of give the game away.
So with the pieces slowly fitting into place, a long-term strategy sort of builds itself and starts the rumour mill rolling inexorably towards yet more unanswered questions, which will in turn almost certainly lead to a future product announcement.
Right now, though, these pieces just aren’t enough. What’s needed is substance, and Google might do well to move as quickly as they can, since Microsoft have made it clear that they intend web-enabling their Office technologies:
“A ‘Microsoft insider’ was asked which other products and services Microsoft would host and the reply was: ‘Everything. Hosted Office. Everything hosted.’”
No, no! Say what you mean, man! Don’t hide behind clever words couched in riddles!
From where I’m sitting, Microsoft are going to take some displacing.
Unlike other areas of their business, there’s a lot of people happy with Microsoft Office as a product, if not as a price point, and Office is one of Microsoft’s most profitable lines.
If there’s to be a concerted effort by Google, might we see Microsoft drop the price of Office to compete? But then, how the hell do you compete with free?
Well, you don’t, because Google Apps isn’t free now even, and certainly won’t be as more features come on-line:
“Two versions of Google Apps Premium are available. There’s a free, ad-supported version with 2 gigabytes of e-mail storage, or the premium $50 version, with 10 GB.”
But maybe Google could heavily subsidize their office suite with advertising?
Now there’s a thought.