I know, a predictable (almost tabloid-y) blog headline. But in this case, there really is some interesting back and forth going on between Microsoft and Google currently - especially with regards to office software.
Firstly Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote an article for The Economist, in which he takes aim at Microsoft with this:
"In 2007 we’ll witness the increasing dominance of open internet standards. As web access via mobile phones grows, these standards will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly. Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by internet-based services that enable users to choose the document formats, search tools and editing capability that best suit their needs."
OK he doesn't specifically name Microsoft, but it's obvious who is at the top of the list of "individual companies" Schmidt is referring to. Also not specifically mentioned is office software, but in this case Google's actions speak louder than their words. In recent months we've seen a flurry of product releases and acquisitions in the office space by Google - Google Apps For Your Domain (a kind of lightweight office suite which includes a start page), the transformation of Writely and their online spreadsheet product into Google Docs & Spreadsheets, the acquisition of JotSpot... it all points to an increasing emphasis on office software from Google.
And now Microsoft is talking tough in return. In a Reuters article today, Microsoft Office group co-leader Antoine Leblond says:
"The simple argument that 'this is good enough for 90 percent of what we do' has fallen on its face over and over and over again [...] When it comes to mission critical things and key pieces of how people run their businesses, the threshold is higher."
Like Schmidt, taking a none too subtle swipe at its competition.
As the Reuters article notes, Microsoft's approach is that Web services will work in tandem with PC-installed software. Whereas Google is mostly an adherent of cloud-based office software, although things like Google Desktop will probably blur that line. As Schmidt noted in the Economist:
"Today we live in the clouds. We’re moving into the era of “cloud” computing, with information and applications hosted in the diffuse atmosphere of cyberspace rather than on specific processors and silicon racks. The network will truly be the computer."
Nick Carr wonders though if Schmidt has his timing right - will 2007 be the 'tipping point'? I suspect it will be, because as we noted in our previous post about GoogleOS - when Microsoft's Vista OS gains significant adoption (which is a given, even if it won't be like the old days of people lining up outside stores for the latest Windows release), that will put pressure on Google's product line. After all, Vista will have IE7 as its default browser, Live Search as default search and live.com as the default homepage (probably). All of this puts the squeeze on Google, which is why we're predicting 2007 will be the year that Google attacks on a lot of fronts. And whether or not you believe a GoogleOS is on the way, it's almost certain that Google will put the pressure on with office software delivered over the Web.
As Dare Obasanjo of Microsoft notes, "it's refreshing to see Google stop playing coy and be straightforward about their ambitions." I heartily agree, but I suspect Google's actions in 2007 will be much louder than their words. Microsoft needs to step up too, as Dare says, so this is going to be a fascinating battle to watch!