Google Apps and Office Naps

Google introduced Google Apps Premier Edition for $50 per account per year. Think of it as the enterprise edition of Google Docs and Spreadsheets (which is what I use to write this blog, among other things), and competition for Office Live. The best thing about these types of Web applications (or Web services) is that the software is NYP — Not Your Problem. Software upgrades are implemented and bugs fixed without any need for you to install anything or mess up your computer with hidden files, dynamic link libraries, and drivers.

Google Apps Premier offers guaranteed uptime, IT management tools, technical support, increased email storage, and integration with the Docs and Spreadsheets word processing and spreadsheet applications, as well as BlackBerry support for Gmail (see “Google Apps upgrade threatens Office” by Juan Carlos Perez of IDG News). According to Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google’s enterprise unit (quoted in the above story), Google plans to add several more applications to the suite before the year is out, and the JotSpot wiki service is a likely candidate.

Rafe Needleman of WebWare, writing for CNET News.com, tells us not to get too excited (see “Google Premium: Don’t get too excited“). Who’s excited? We’re just optimistic. Rafe points out that Google’s offering is not robust enough to give Office real competition… not yet, anyway:

The word processor and spreadsheet can’t exchange data, for example. The spreadsheet has no graphing function. And there’s no presentation program (Powerpoint competitor), although there are indications that Google is getting close to releasing one. On the other hand, Google’s communication and scheduling tools (Gmail, Google Talk, and Calendar) are very strong, and the mobile versions keep getting better as well… Here at Webware, we use Google Apps when we need to collaborate on documents, and sometimes when we need to bang out a quick story and don’t want to fire up a full Microsoft app. But it hasn’t replaced Office for day-to-day document creation. Yet.

Nevertheless, Google Apps is getting serious attention. Joe Wilcox in Microsoft Watch (“Google and Long Tail Computing“) makes the point that “Microsoft has a huge fragmentation problem, where businesses aren’t quickly upgrading to new versions of Office… These upgrade laggards form part of a Long Tail of computing that Google could capture as Apps customers.” Add all Mac users to the list as well. I’ve been a happy user of Google Docs since before Google acquired it (back when it was called Writely).

Wilcox’s newer post is also illuminating: “Google didn’t release ‘Apps’ to compete with Microsoft. Google’s objective is much bigger than Microsoft: A googol of information.” You know that old saw that “railroads are not in the railroad business, they are in the transportation business”? (Christy Hefner, CEO of Playboy, once used the phrase to describe the media business.) Wilcox points out that while Microsoft is in the “operating system” or software business, Google is in the “information” business. Microsoft monetizes software (and services, no doubt, in the future), while Google uses search and contextual advertising to monetize information. Give people just enough of a feature set and a lot of other things for free (a strategy Microsoft used in the 1990s with Office), and they will get on board. Meanwhile, Microsoft advances in services in the enterprise arena are hampered by its alliances with so many partners, which get much of their revenue from services that they sell on top of Microsoft software. As Google scales up to support enterprise customers, it begins to eat Microsoft’s lunch.

P.S. How a Typo Brought Down MS Office

According to the Wikipedia entry for googol, a very large number (actually 10 to the 100th power), Google was named after this number, but ended up with “Google” due to a spelling mistake on a check that investors wrote to the founders. While this bit of folklore will most likely survive challenges to its veracity as the history books dissect this period decades from now, David Koller at Stanford (who apparently was there) says that Larry Page’s officemate Sean Anderson was responsible for the misspelling — he executed a search of the Internet domain name registry database using “Google.com” by mistake, and found it available; Page liked the name and that was that. Of course, since Google didn’t exist at that time, there was no correction offered for Sean’s mistake.

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