Google Makes Its Move


Dan Farber reports on tomorrow’s release of Google Apps for Your Domain, a grouping of online applications Google hopes will allow it to compete with Microsoft’s highly entrenched Office suite.

The initial package will contain email, calendar, IM, and web site creation applications. Obviously missing are word processing and spreadsheets, which Google plans to add later this year when Writely and Google Spreadsheets will be added to the mix. Like everything else Google-related, the applications will be ad-supported.

Google is smartly couching its package, at least initially, not as a replacement for Microsoft Office, but as a way to add collaboration features.

While it seems odd that Google would push its package out the door now, without the most important applications, word processing and spreadsheets, the forthcoming upgrade to Office promises better collaboration features. Google probably figured it was better to get its product out the door now and generate a little buzz (and likely a bit of second guessing) than to wait and be drowned out by the buzz that will erupt when Office 2007 is released.

As I have said many times, corporate America is not going to embrace online applications and storage for a long time- privacy, security, fear of a bad decision, and confidentiality requirements ensure that. But the more individuals and small businesses that opt for Google’s free alternatives, the bigger Google’s toehold is- both in the office productivity space and in connection with its master plan to be the keeper of all of our data.

Bold but troubling is word via InformationWeek that “Google’s plans include prompting people who send Microsoft Office documents using Gmail to translate those files into Google’s formats for editing on, presumably in a forum where ad space is up for sale.” One of the great and valid fears of IT managers is data spread- when your data is spread all over the place, it becomes harder to protect and manage.

Which is not to say that Google’s package won’t one day be a legitimate option for individuals. An open question is whether the almighty ad dollar Google is chasing will be content to hawk its wares to personal users.

The obvious criticism of Google’s offering is its patchwork origins, as the Information Week article points out:

“The Google solution is what I’d call patchwork, or Frankenstein, software,” says Tom Rizzo, a director for Office SharePoint Server at Microsoft. “You have to put it all together yourself.”

Will Google succeed in wrestling the office productivity crown away from Microsoft? Not a chance.

But as Dan points out, there is “disruption in the air.” The unanswered question is whether mere disruption is the goal.

Or something bigger.

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