Businesses require office productivity tools -- a category that Microsoft has been leading for the past two decades.
Next month, Microsoft Office will celebrate its 22nd anniversary. The suite survived competition from Corel's Word Perfect, Lotus 123, and Sun's Open Office. For two decades, it has innovated, thrived, and captured the enterprise market. Microsoft offered and then withdrew 13 features and applications from later versions. Office is now available in more than 35 languages. With all this, the software has seemed invincible.
But now a strong contender is emerging -- Google Docs, now part of Google Drive. It works online, just like all other Google products. It incorporates word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software. It does not cover project management, database, or desktop publishing, which Microsoft comprehensively includes with MS Project, MS Access, and MS Publisher. But most office employees seldom, if ever, use these additional pieces of software. They don't even come in standard editions of MS Office.
The objective of this blog is not to compare the two versions. You can read that comparison here. Rather, I want to look at the things enterprise and midsized IT managers should consider before choosing a cloud-based productivity solution now that they have choices from both Microsoft and Google.
Microsoft responded to Google's online approach with its own SaaS product, Office 365, which evolved from Office Live. Pricing starts at $4 per user, versus $5 for Google. The year-old Office 365's interface is similar to Microsoft Office's and extends the Microsoft Office desktop to work seamlessly with the online version. Microsoft has OEM pricing and a big base of enterprise customers that use the Windows operating system to its advantage.
Why is Microsoft worried when Google's suite works only online and has primitive features and comparatively few users?
To begin with, Google has the power to convert its search and email users into Google Docs users. It already has 1 billion search users and 400 million Gmail users. That makes Gmail the most widely used Web-based email service in the world, according to GigaOm.
When Gmail users click on document attachments, they can save, edit, and share all their email attachments through Google Docs. See the example snapshot below.
Easy Access With Google Docs
Gmail users can save, edit, and share attachments using Google Docs.
Google retains a broad claim to reproduce, use, and create derivative works from any content that is stored on the Google Drive. What you will find surprising is that this license is perpetual -- even after your content is removed. Although the user retains intellectual property rights, the broad Google Drive license allows for promoting the service -- and for the extraction and parsing of uploaded content -- to customize advertising and other services that Google provides to the user.
This created a lot of hue and cry when a CNET blogger raised the issue this spring. This is something enterprise IT managers may want to consider before deciding which solution to choose for their organization.
Google and Microsoft both offer their enterprise suite at no cost anywhere in the world to educational institutions of all sizes and levels. If you are managing enterprise IT for an educational institution, pricing is not a factor in the decision-making process.
Microsoft's second fear stems from Google's inroads in tablets and smartphones through Android. As creating, editing, and reviewing tools on these portable devices improves, Google will beat Office 365 hands down, due to its syncing capability, Android marketshare, and Gmail and search integration. Then we will see a tipping point.
Suddenly, despite decades of Office domination, Microsoft does not appear invincible. This should be giving a few people sleepless nights in Redmond.
Talha Khalid is a consultant and trainer in technology, supply chain, and game theory.