Google Office: Fear Trumps Free in Corporate America

Rick Mahn has an interesting post on the whole Google Office thing we’ve been talking about.

I think he’s spot on that there will be a market for Google’s office productivity applications based on cost alone. It’s hard to beat free, and if I weren’t in a profession largely based on pushing paper, I’d certainly consider using a cheaper office suite. I haven’t used Writely, but Steve Rubel likes it, so it must be a good product.

But there are a couple of other issues lurking out there.

First of all, I don’t think it’s as much of a cost thing as it is a browser based online thing. If you only want close to free, there’s StarOffice. If you want totally free, there’s OpenOffice.

If you want online, there’s Google now. More players are on the horizon.

Sure, there is a slight movement towards online web applications, lead by email, online music services and, most importantly, online banking. I say most importantly because the banking industry has spent millions and made progress convincing people that they can bank online without getting robbed blind.

riskaversionBut here’s the thing. Until corporate America decides that it can create and perhaps store all of its important and confidential documents online, online word processing and storage isn’t happening. Not in the business world.

Add to that the strict confidentiality requirements imposed on doctors, lawyers and bankers and the market continues to shrink.

So while Google will get some mindshare because it is Google, I don’t see many businesses moving all of their document management online. For security reasons. Because of inertia by risk aversion. And because they would have to retrain all of their people.

That’s not to say this won’t hurt Microsoft, because the home and educational user base is important to Microsoft. Should some computer maker start giving Google Office as a cheaper alternative to Office or Works, then Microsoft will feel a little pain. Remember the Dell deal to put Google bloatware on new Dells?

It may even be forced to scrap the faux Office Live and do a real one.

This deal is going nowhere as far as business users go. But it will sting Microsoft a little bit.

And maybe that was the point all along.