Monday, April 26, 2010

Thoughts on Google Docs

I had a number of conversations with people about the new version of g'docs and thought I'd put some thoughts on here about it. I'm a little late in translating my back of the envelope thoughts to the blog, but I still thought I would share...

I think Google's announcement of the new version of g'docs was over hyped by the media. That doesn't change the fact that it was a significant announcement and a very useful set of changes though. The actual upgrade though couldn't get simpler - go into settings and click an option to try the new version... repeat the process to roll back. Nice and simple, and you get all the useful features that you can read about in every tech magazine and website. Now, let's compare the upgrade process for the last MS Office release. Once you buy, download, or otherwise obtain the media and install, you go through the install process (who knows how long this process takes and how much it costs) and what do you get? A new toolbar and a couple other things that most people won't really use. Oh wait, you get compatibility with the newest version of the office format. So I have to upgrade to a new version just so I can create/use documents that use the new format? And this benefits me how?

Google docs does not have as much traditional office suite functionality as MS office... there I said it. But think about that... how much traditional office suite functionality do people really need? If there has been so much critical functionality added in the last few releases of MS office, why are so many people still using 2000 or 2003 versions (if not older... heh)?

What's the biggest glaring omission from MS Office? It's not the ability to do some crazy formatting thing when doing a mail merge that 1% of users do once a year. That's very nice to have if you are that person. However, for rest of us, the missing functionality is collaboration. And that is one of the things Google improved with the new version of g'docs. They took something they already do great and improved upon it, while MS office is still in the stone ages. I'm sure you can do something like that using some crazy combination of SharePoint, expensive Windows only office connectors, etc. But it's not collaboration for the masses!

And oh by the way, Google's new version is a rewrite under the covers which allows faster innovation in the future.

This sounds like a pretty good deal to me. So yes, you could dismiss the Google docs upgrade as not important... but if you do I think you're missing it. I mean honestly, I could dismiss any office suite upgrade as trivial - who gets excited about office suites after all? But in the office suite grand scheme of things, I think this is something to get excited about.

Since scratching down my original thoughts, the ms/fb announcement has come out... that certainly looks interesting and it's always good to see more competition in any space. But let's be honest people - do you really thing MS would be doing that if it weren't for Google Docs??

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