In 2007, Google officially launched Google Docs. This revolutionary service allowed people to access word processor, spreadsheet, slide show, and other software through the Internet – without having to buy or install any programs. All of these Web-based documents could be saved in a variety of formats, including formats compatible with the Microsoft Office suite.
Well, more than four years later, Microsoft has realized that the trends toward free, Web-based, cloud computing may actually be legitimate and decided to participate. Microsoft will be releasing several of its applications for the Internet, allowing users to access them from anywhere with an Internet connection.
To be clear, these won’t be free services, but will instead require a monthly fee similar to the fee Google charges for its Google Apps for Business product – which Google launched back in 2006. While Microsoft has offered online versions of some office products in the past, mostly to corporate customers, this recent announcement is probably its biggest foray into the growing cloud computing world.
To be fair to Microsoft, while they are competing with Google, they probably don’t care about the individual who is opting for Google Docs instead of buying Microsoft Office. They don’t make billions of dollars selling Microsoft Word to college students and stay-at-home moms; they make their billions by selling to huge corporations who use the software on thousands of computers. For so many years, they were the standard in business software, and continue to be so. So as Google has developed its services and expanded its influence, Microsoft likely didn’t feel any negative impact.
However, there’s a middle ground between huge corporations and individual users: small businesses – where Google Docs isn’t quite enough, but they don’t need the same services as an international corporation. At $50 per year, Google’s Apps for Business service is pretty appealing for a small business. At a minimum cost they not only have access to the useful software, but they can also capitalize on the benefits of cloud computing – sharing, coordinating, etc. Perhaps it took a few years for Microsoft to really notice, but it seems like they’re now trying to capitalize on a bit of market share they may have previously been ignoring.
That being said, it’s still surprising to me how long it took them to get it together. Microsoft used to be at the forefront of innovation; but more recently Google seems to be filling that role, while Microsoft hangs back before committing to anything. There’s nothing wrong with that approach (obviously not; Microsoft’s stock rose significantly with this announcement) but it would be nice to see the powers at Microsoft pushing the envelope a bit more and, in so doing, giving Google a run for their money.
Scott Spjut is a writer, blogger, and cynic who has been featured in various print and online publicationsincluding Newsweek, CBS News, SearchEnginePeople.com and the Washington Post. He currently writes for Professional Marketing International.