Google doesn't yet have an Office 2.0--a full suite of hosted productivity applications aimed at the Microsoft Office crowd, especially the small- and medium-sized firms--but starting tomorrow companies or organizations can deploy Google email, calendar, chat and Web page (Page Creator) hosting for free (ad supported). The set of Google communications applications is an extension of Gmail for Your Domain, and has some limited UI customization and administration features. Later this year, Google will offer a subscription service with additional storage and support options.
Aaron Ricadela of InformationWeek has an comprehensive story on Google's suite plans and the competitive market. According to Ricadela's story, Google will add Writely and Google Spreadsheets to the suite later this year, and develop cross-application collaboration features. Google will also have APIs for integrating with directory servers and service level agreements, which could make the applications more attractive to larger companies. Just like Amazon with its Elastic Compute Cloud service, Google is leveraging its massive datacenter investment.
Google's plans include prompting people who send Microsoft Office documents using Gmail to translate those files into Google's formats for editing on Google.com, presumably in a forum where ad space is up for sale. Gmail messages that include attached files currently prompt users with links to download the documents or view them on the Web. Glotzbach [Matt Glotzbach, head of enterprise products at Google] envisions a third link to edit the documents online and generate E-mail to other users in a group when the edits are done. Writely can read files created by Microsoft Word, and Google Spreadsheets can read and create Excel files and formulas, though it's unable to handle more complex Excel functions such as macros.
Then he quotes Tom Rizzo, a director for Office SharePoint Server at Microsoft, "The Google solution is what I'd call patchwork, or Frankenstein, software. You have to put it all together yourself."
Microsoft's base of Office users--most of the business users in the developed world--aren't going to defect to Google or other products like Zoho's suite overnight. And, Microsoft is developing its own suite of hosted Windows Live applications and looking forward to Vista improving the overall Windows applications experience. But, there is disruption in the air, and the Microsoft Office monopoly is definitely going to face a major competitive threat in the near future...