In the last few years, Google has has taken the front-running position in the online productivity application market. Until recently, they did not have a large competitor in the area. However, Microsoft recently released their new web apps software suite. As with Google, Microsoft is giving the basic version of this software suite away for free. Some may consider this a surprising move, since Microsoft makes a significant part of its revenue from its traditional office suite. However, Microsoft obviously sees a significant potential shift in organizations’ use of productivity software, and so they have created a competitor to Google apps.
Due to the importance of traditional office software to their business, Microsoft has taken a different approach with its web apps than has Google. Google has created a system that allows for easy file creation and rich formatting, and they have integrated advanced collaboration features into the applications. Google’s apps enable multiple invidiuals to edit a document at one time, and for all users to see edits in near real-time. Google has basically created a suite of apps that they hope can be an online substitute for the Microsoft Office suite in many organizations. Microsoft’s online apps suite is much more basic, and it seems to be aimed towards users that want to share and make minor edits to traditionally produced office files in an online setting. Microsoft’s online system is much better at preserving the formatting from Documents produced in their Office file formats, and it retains many of the menu and user-interface elements that are present in the traditional Office suite. However, the overall number of features are limited in Microsoft’s suite, and their apps do not allow multiple users to edit documents at the same time. With the Microsoft apps, users need to “lock” documents when they want to edit, and while they are locked, they can not be accessed by other users. The Microsoft apps also seem to run slower than do the Google apps. These last differences highlight the lead that Google currently has in technical knowledge about cloud computing over Microsoft.
Microsoft’s goal is likely to create a complement for its traditional Office suite with the new web apps. They want to allow individuals to easily make minor corrections to existing documents online (rather than to creating whole documents online). Microsoft hopes that these new capabilities will preserve their market space in the productivity apps area, and that individuals that already have the traditional office suite will use their web apps when they need to update documents in a group setting. However, if real-time collaboration features become highly-valued in new business settings, Microsoft’s software may not be highly accepted by users, which could cause further adoption of Google apps by organizations.