Google and Office-on-the-web
Frank Kermode

More on the Google "Office"

Substantial, thoughtful post from Anil Dash — needs to be read in full, but here are some bits that struck me:

Google Apps will be used by companies that are relying on an in-house tech fan as their IT department, where larger companies who have a consultant or IT person on staff will stay with Microsoft solutions for these tasks. The truth is, Microsoft Office is great at traditional document creation, but it's lousy at collaboration, and that's the space that Google Apps, Office Live, SharePoint, and lots of other competitors are going after.

He goes on to review the non-Microsoft competitors of Google Apps (Office Live being the Microsoft "app" with which Google Apps is competing): Joyent, Zoho, 37Signals, Yahoo and Best of Breed Apps.

In all, the strength of these competitors bodes well for the entire space. In every case, these independent competitors are charging money for their products.

Information Week's report on Google Apps brought out the way Google is presenting its "relationship" with Microsoft:

"The right way to view Writely and Google Spreadsheets, especially in the context of a larger business, isn't necessarily as a replacement for Word or Excel," says Matt Glotzbach, head of enterprise products at Google. "They're the collaboration component of that."

That bit from Information Week, and a Reuters piece, led Nick Carr to say, 'Google is competing with Microsoft's nascent Live services more than it's competing with Microsoft's existing office suite'. Check. (Anil Dash: 'A key to success here will be to position Spreadsheets and Writely as complements to Microsoft Office'.) But Carr concludes his posting: 'it appears that the long-time monopoly in office applications may not be dismantled but rather replaced by a duopoly, and that the expected wave of innovation in web-based productivity applications may die long before it reaches shore'.

'In all, the strength of these competitors bodes well for the entire space': I hope so. Nick Carr's posting made me think of Don's warning earlier this month: 'useless to ask whether Google is the new Microsoft. Ask instead how can small companies survive the chaos to come'.

However the market pans out, here's some of Anil Dash's conclusion:

… there has been active resistance (to 'web-based hosted services') by large corporations and enterprises, and adoption was led by small companies or by independent workgroups and remote offices within a company. Google Apps is going to mirror that adoption, and will take hold primarily in organizations where the culture isn't based around an existing process of mailing Word memos as attachments, but instead on IMing links to relevant resources.

In Anil's words, in order to grow Google Apps need 'a mixed environment where many core services are hosted, but in an informal … model instead of the structured ASPs that large enterprises use'. Schools with IT departments whose zeal is not misguided are likely to be places where users will experiment with such application utilities — and students will be amongst the leaders, of course. Handheld and other devices that are wirelessly connected to the net independent of the organisation's gateway will, evidently, greatly assist the viral spread of such apps and, in the best of all possible worlds, IT departments and schools will recognise this and focus their efforts on encouraging both good and innovative practice.

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