Google Docs rolls out the updates we wrote about in April, Microsoft Office 2010 is hogging the limelight. And just last week Microsoft released Office Web Apps. It may seem like Microsoft is encroaching on Google's territory, but Google doesn't have much territory to defend.As
According to Forrester, only 4% of U.S. online consumers use Google Docs. "In terms of usage and penetration, Google Docs remains a failure," wrote JP Gownder for Forrester. Office Web Apps won't kill Google Docs; Google Docs was never really alive to begin with.
Google's hopes seem to lay in converting enterprises to their offerings as awareness and demand for cloud-based solutions increases. But Microsoft is taking the cloud very seriously. The company's hiring 500 sales people just to push the cloud. And it has what appears to be an impenetrable lead in the office software market. But Google Docs still leads Office Web Apps in features, and if Google can patch some of its weaknesses and exploit some of Microsoft's, it still stands a chance to make a respectable showing in the enterprise.
Google dropped Google Gears support last month, and hasn't announced when its new HTML5 based offline solution will be released. As nice as having access to documents in the cloud is, having access to mission-critical documents when your Internet connection is down or you're in a wireless dead-zone is even better. Sure, there have been third-party apps to sync your files, and you can export and save them to your computer. But a seamless offline Google experience would be even better.
By creating a Google-approved syncing solution, the partnership with Memeo to create the Gdrive is a step in this direction. Memeo Connect will sync Google Docs with a documents on a user's local computer, but they'll still need to fire up Microsoft Office or Open Office to edit them offline. However, it puts Google Docs into the position of being a reasonable competitor to Office Web Apps, even for Office 2010 users.
Office Web Apps documents can be accessed from mobile devices, but they're read-only. Google's been offering limited editing in Google Docs for some time now. Microsoft will doubtlessly incorporate Web Apps editing through Windows Mobile 7, and possibly other devices, so Google needs to expand its lead in this area.
Danny Sulivan writes that he might skip this version of Office because Microsoft isn't offering an upgrade discount. The lack of upgrade pricing is effectively a price-hike. It's one thing to ask a company to keep paying for something they've always paid for. It's another to ask them to start paying more. Google should take advantage of this.
The most significant improvement in the Google Docs update is the Wave-like real-time collaborative editing feature. Although Office Web Apps already has some collaborative editing functionality, it's severely crippled in that users can't actually see each others edit in real-time. It's not clear just how great an advantage this will be, but Google should milk it for all it's worth.
Microsoft maintains its marketshare in part by bundling Office with consumer PCs. Google Chrome could introduce a number of customers to Google Docs if netbooks, tablets or even desktops powered by the OS take off. Portable Chrome devices with offline access to Google Docs and GDrive syncing could compliment desktops running Office - a first step towards supplanting Office completely. Of course, offering complete Chrome and Google Apps solutions for enterprise desktops as well as portable devices would be far more interesting. We've speculated that Google might be planning to market Chrome to the enterprise in the past.