“Teach your old doc new tricks”

Its 9:00 AM, you walk into your office and open Outlook to check email, start on that report on MS Word and build the model alongside on MS Excel. Within an hour you’re in the conference room giving a presentation you made on MS Powerpoint to the boss. Seems like just another day right? In all of this, what would you have done without the companion which has become a part of your life like none other – the ubiquitous MS Office.

One of Microsoft’s profit havens, MS Office as a concept was challenged by Google Docs, a product that helps users create and edit documents online. MS Office has been the suite for editing and saving documents, excel sheets and powerpoints for years. Its products are user friendly, feature rich and most importantly, widely used. Hence, replacing them by a web-based document system is not an easy task. Started in August 2005, Google Docs had fewer features than MS Office and did not achieve high adoption. Although it is extremely useful for collaborative work, old habits die hard, and making people switch completely to a browser based system has not worked yet.

In Feb 2011, Google announced a new ace up its sleeve – Cloud Connect, a toolbar that will “teach your old doc new tricks”. It can be added onto MS Office and then used to save documents online or edit them collaboratively. This appealing feature added to the comfort of a familiar software has the capability to emerge as a winner. From MS’s point of view, it is a downright cheeky move – a free application that sits right inside MS Office and connects all documents to the web.

Cloud Connect is a service that allows you to access the Google Cloud via an MS application. It is the first step to moving all computing onto the cloud and will go a long way in familiarising users with the concept of an online operating system.

‘The cloud’ is another one of those technical buzzwords doing the rounds today which refers to the concept of offering software as a service. The next battle is touted to be on the cloud – a place where Google has definite advantage over MS. Google has developed its cloud technology over the years since fundamentally, cloud computing is closer to Google’s current way of operating than MS’s way of on-premise software.

It is nothing new for Google to challenge a market leader. Apart from specialising in creating entirely new markets and needs for web-users, the company has become famous for challenging companies on their own turf and emerging with flying colours. Starting with search, Google has slowly entered MS’s profit havens by bringing out its own operating system – Android, internet browser – Chrome, documents sharing and editing system– Google Docs and mobile apps – YouTube, Maps.  To counter Google’s moves MS invested heavily in its search technology and released Bing, a ramped up version of MS Live Search in May 2009. It also bought over Yahoo’s search technology to challenge Google Search – which currently has 65.4% market share. 

With the boundaries between online applications and offline software getting blurred, MS and Google are now at loggerheads to gain supremacy in the computer users’ world. While MS went for Google’s bread and butter by re-entering the online search market, Google has encroached on MS’s Office, Internet Explorer and Windows turf. MS is famous for being a master at imitation, and with its pockets full of cash and an army of developers, it has the capability to crush Google products in the same manner that it crushed Apple’s Mac. However, Google has successfully challenged MS in every arena so far, emerging as MS’s strongest competitor.

While we’re teaching our MS docs to do Google tricks, the war between the two technology giants has just started.


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