All that being said… Microsoft can win this battle. Here’s why.
One thing has been very obvious to us in our use of Google Apps; we’re not ready to throw out our Microsoft Office. Far from it. We all still have Office loaded on every system. While our use has certainly waned over the past six months, none of us could let it go.
That’s why I like Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps. They’re not trying to play the game on Google’s terms. They’re not positioning Office Web Apps as an alternative to their well known (and still profitable) Office Suite. They’re positioning it as an extension.
Google’s answer is that you need only one solution. Microsoft’s answer is that you can have both. While it’s still in beta and therefore functionally broken (still can’t edit word docs), it’s coming along.
My gripe about Google Apps is that it’s not really seamless to import a Microsoft doc or spreadsheet into Google Apps and have it ready for prime time. It’s the little gotcha’s that creep up and make you reluctant to completely let go of Office. (For instance, try printing Google Apps spreadsheet without the grid lines. It’s possible, but not intuitive and not without modifying the URL of your spreadsheet – at least not as of a month or so ago).
Large companies have moved to Google Apps, while others have been hesitant because of the concern of needing large documents now only to have all of them being downloaded over and over again. Microsoft has answered this through their Office Web Apps over Sharepoint. It’s a great idea. The benefits of hosting while still maintaining control of your docs.
Windows Administrators take note; we will still need to do software installations for Office 2010, even while taking advantage of Office Web Apps. Remember, it’s extending Office, not replacing it. We’ll post deployment instructions as the beta progresses.
There’s promise in both Microsoft and Google offerings. It’s just nice to see someone (Microsoft) playing a game but doing so on their terms.
And in true free market form, the products of both will be better and the consumers will benefit.
Take advantage of Office 2010 beta.