Google Apps

Googles web based office suite just came out of beta, its priced at USD50 pa, which will probably translate to about 80 quid judging by some peoples exchange rates. I’m guessing it will end up 25-30 quid a year.

I’m a bit of a desktop fan myself (handy that, me being a developer of desktop software!) so I’ve never really seen these web based products as much of an opportunity or threat. Interestingly though this fella sees it differently, I think that’s Robin Bloor of Bloor Research. They are pretty well regarded, so that gives it more credibility in my mind. What do you think?

I keep meaning to sign up for the free version of Google apps to have a nosey around, but you know what its like, so many spreadsheets so little time. I can think of a few uses for the shared approach, especially as an independent dev. I believe the functionality is quite limited compared to MS Office. Should I find a few hours to try it out, I’ll report back. In the meantime, if any of you have tried it out let us know your thoughts.

The way I see it VBA is the critical factor keeping many orgs on MS Excel, and Excel is keeping them on Office, which is keeping them on Windows. I could be biased of course! I think OpenOffice/Novell agree to some extent though, as they are busily implementing VBA in Open Office (no mention of them implementing a ‘ribbon-like’ UI though (funny old thing)).

Do you think I’m overvaluing the importance of Excel and VBA? What do you see as the most critical apps?



8 Responses to “Google Apps”

  1. Sam Says:

    I certainly have Windows beacause of Office and Office because of Excel…….
    ….the logic behind the webbased applications seems to be
    a) Sharing
    b) Assuming that not every one having Excel on their PC

    For a) I would use E-mail for b) That would be 2% of the users who are not my clients….So…a web based office application doesnt really excite me…

  2. tom Says:

    The main attraction at the present moment is the idea of a managed eMail environment with 10G of storage for $50 a head! Combine that with ‘free’ hosting for a static website, integration with a blogging platform all under your own domain; it’s a very attractive proposition for many SMEs.
    In that context Docs & Spreadsheets are just a nice to have, but I do believe in the future they pose a significant threat to MS monopoly of office software. The main reason is that for most users both products (even as they stand and without the powerful ‘glue’ that is JotSpot) are ‘good enough’. And, the wiki-combined-with-IM nature of both products makes collaboration just so easy.

    I wouldn’t give up Excel (although I also use Google Spreadsheets as well) and others (think law offices) would not abandon Word, but for many others (think students, start-up businesses, the great unwashed currently abandoned to the horror that is MS Works) the price point and ease-of-use will be hard to ignore.


  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Check out this article on ComputerWorld.

    The author mentions Google possibly buying ThinkFree. ThinkFree with hooks to connect it to other applications across the net and a decent scripting facility would be a much more serious threat to Microsoft.

    The people reading this blog are almost certainly neither going to use Google Apps themselves nor write turnkey programs for clients based on Google Apps. But there are LOTS of people using Office in large companies and at home who don’t need Office.

    In the large company environment, most applications are either legacy mainframe programs or browser-based for use on the company’s intranet. The rest of you may have smaller clients who still want Excel-based applications, but in where I work there’s now a moratorium on spreadsheets as platforms for multiuser applications. We still use Excel for one-man jobs, and there are some legacy Excel models that aren’t going away for years to come, but nothing new.

    As for the home market, I haven’t met any home user who needs more than OpenOffice, and Works would be adequate for the vast majority.

    Google poses a threat to Microsoft in the larger companies in which most in-house applications are mainframe, browser or database server based. Excel may provide a very handy means of collecting and displaying information, but simpler is almost always better, and the simpler models could easily be handled in less feature-laden spreadsheets. And word processing is word processing (and the word processor in Works is Word, proving the point). The only compelling reason to buy Office is to get Excel, but how many users needs even 50% of the features Excel provides? And that’s in the context of large companies. It’s even more the case for home users (those using Office for personal use rather than working from home).

  4. Roger Says:

    Well from my view point. Companies that go to the web based option are hadicapping their employees ability to due advanced data crunching. I tried Google S/S a few months ago and it was very limiting. It’s ok for making phone lists but any sort of semi-complex data manipulation and, like mentioned above, any sort of even simple macro generation to apply some automation is out of the question. It plays to the dumb down crowd. My former boss has adopted this at his company. People there only make very simple S/S. Decisions get made based on these simply analysis. The owner reasons that if he doesn’t need anything more, and since he’s the smartest person in the world, then why would anyone else need more. Also, will there be a huge newsgroup community out there to help user like exists now for XL users? Of course the crowd that goes the way of web based S/S and word processors don’t use the newsgroups today so I guess it’s a moot point.

  5. Marcus Says:

    Google Office
    Big issues I see are not related to functionality but security, integrity, IP ownership and control. What would the Basel Accord and SoX have to say about corporate data in such an environment? The financial institutions I deal with are already paranoid about who can access what on their systems. Let someone else control the hosting our corporate data? I can’t see that fly.

    Overvaluing the importance of Excel & VBA
    Not in the least. I recall reading a description of VBA as ‘glue’ that holds together apps. Take that glue away and things start falling apart. One client I spoke to last week mentioned that their business would ‘fall apart’ if you took away Excel & Access (VBA is implied here).

    Caveat – I tend to see the world through the corporate environment. I can certainly see uses for Google Office in the SME market.

    Cheers – Marcus

  6. Simon Says:

    Interesting mix of views, and some very interesting snippets (co’s blocking new Excel devs, co’s already totally on-line).
    Thanks for the link Harlan, that was very interesting.
    Security is certainly an issue, and I can imagine using these externally managed services as a real barrier to SOX compliance, unless they were certified compliant or something. A bit like the viral nature of the ISO/BSI quality accreditations.
    Looking at all the server based features in Office 2007, and these web apps, and OpenOffices rapid progress I can’t help wondering what spreadsheeting might be in 5 years. (probably just the same, as everyone will be just considering moving off Office 2003!)
    Anyone want to put their neck on the line with a ‘spreadsheets in 2012’ prediction?

  7. Harlan Grove Says:

    As for compliance, how big a stretch do y’all think it’d be for Google to drop Google Apps onto corporate intranets given they’ve already put Google Search on them?

    Prove the concept on the Internet where everyone can see, sell the product on intranets to dispell security concerns.

    As for the lack of advanced data crunching, 80-90% of corporate Office users (at least in Fortune 500 companies) never perform any. They mostly use Word and PowerPoint, and slap together 1 or 2 page reports in Excel when it’s easier than using tables in Word. The advanced data crunching market for those unwilling, incapable or too damn cheap to buy real stats/math packages (and too timid to use free software equivalents) amounts to maybe 5 million seats worldwide. Compare that to the number of legit Office licenses in use. I’ll be conservative: 50% of corporate Office users worldwide could have Office replaced with Works and not notice the difference, especially since most of them would be Word users primarily, and Works also provides Word. Most Office users AREN’T Excel users.

    Personal anecdote: my children are supposed to use Office apps for various homework projects. I’ve shown them how to use OpenOffice for EVERYTHING they’ve had to do for school (they’re 14 and 13). Plotting 20 points from a science experiment with error bars and trend line is the most sophisticated task they’ve had to date. It doesn’t require Excel.

  8. Roger Says:

    Harlen, I agree with you 100% on the lack of usage of the so called advance XL capabilities. I say so called because I still run into people that can’t figure our how to setup a simple table and get the sort feature to work. I am far underneath your expertise in XL, but I walk on water here at work and other places that I have worked simply because I can make XL do advanced “things”. What kills me is that I work with people that are intelligent but when it comes to PC they do as you say and only work in Word or PP and read email. People are amazed when I give them some routine data analysis derived from XL based off of database information quired from the MRP system. They are just dumbfounded that that information can be gotten and turned into useful information which makes their decision making much more certain. But then they fall back into the same old habits I have made it this far without having to get my hands dirty crunching numbers so I will just make a decision based on gut feel. I think that these very smart people think they will look foolish if they try to learn something new in XL and if they can’t get the hang of it then they feel that they will look stupid to others. So, they fail to understand or appreciate the importance of anyone doing this kind of work.

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