Can Google Beat Microsoft Office?
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Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) are not the only two tech companies strengthening their competitive positions. After years of having virtually no strong competition, the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Office suite now has several competitors. The opening that these competitors are taking advantage of is mobile and the cloud. Google has the edge when it comes to cloud productivity with Google Docs. Apple has a competitor suite for OSX and iOS called iWork and even Research in Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY) owns Documents to Go: a mobile productivity suite.
The latest move in the productivity arena was Google’s purchase of Quickoffice, which is a mobile productivity suite that can open Microsoft office documents without actually installing the office suite. Over 300 million devices currently run Quickoffice which can run on iOS and Android. This latest acquisition could provide an excellent addition to Google Docs, which is now a part of Google Drive. It would also add some much needed functionality for native Google Docs apps. Combine the online Google Docs interface now incorporated into Google Drive with better mobile applications and Google’s productivity suite will become a far more competitive product than it currently is.
Additionally this was a preemptive move against Microsoft. There have been several rumors over the past year that Microsoft is going to release its wildly popular Microsoft office suite for Android and iOS. The latest rumor is that this will come to pass in the fall potentially around the release of Windows 8. Several such reports lend credence to the November 2012 release of office at least for the iPad. If these rumors do not come to fruition there will still be added competition from Microsoft in the mobile office market from Windows RT. Windows RT is the tablet version of Windows 8 and Microsoft has already confirmed that there will be a version of Microsoft Office for Windows RT.
There is also added competition from Apple with their iWork suite which has Excel, Word and PowerPoint competitor programs. Launched in 2005 as the Appleworks successor iWork is already available and popular on the iOS platform as well as the mac app store. Apple additionally lets users buy individual programs within the suite as opposed to buying the entire suite of software as you have to with Microsoft Office. Even Research in Motion has a dog in mobile productivity with Documents to Go, which is a very popular multi-platform competitor to Microsoft Office and iWork.
Made by DataViz, Documents to Go is available on Android, iOS and Blackberry, and it also supports syncing to Windows and OSX. In 2010 Research in Motion announced they were acquiring DataViz for 50 million dollars. DataViz had been working in the productivity space since 1984 and Documents to Go was one of the bestselling productivity apps in the Apple App store. At the time Research in Motion acquired the company of roughly 70 employees they released a vague statement saying DataViz was going to focus on supporting the Blackberry platform.
The difference between Google Docs and the other offerings is that Google gives away Google Docs and 5GB of storage as part of their ecosystem. Microsoft Office has long been a paid suite of applications that has been a crucial part of Microsoft's earnings. The online version of Office, Office 365, the upcoming tablet version for Windows RT as well as the rumored iOS and Android versions will bring Microsoft Office to the full range of devices. Added syncing functionality could also be available through Office 365 so that a document created on your Windows tablet could be backed up in the cloud on 365 and then also synced to your desktop computer. Similar functionality exists from Apple through iCloud.
The free model Google uses for its productivity suite, its simplicity and ease of use has allowed it to gain traction. Its integration with other Google services like Gmail and Google Drive will also help, however the gold standard remains as Microsoft Office, even after the Quickoffice purchase. With cheaper mobile versions launching and with added cloud functionality, Microsoft is keeping Office relevant.
However it is not about dominating the productivity market for Google, rather it is just about having a competent offering as part of their platform. This is the same with Apple and iWork, and in this regard the Quickoffice purchase is a big step in the right direction for Google. The purchase acknowledges that not everything in an office suite can be web based at this point and that their current offerings of native clients is not competitive. So they purchased a mobile productivity company that focuses on making native mobile clients, and the hope is that their offering of native clients will quickly improve.
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