I checked in with Joe Kraus, CEO of JotSpot, about the impact of Google Spreadsheets, which after an initial, widely observed and ballyhooed launch (will it kill Microsoft Excel?), has gone into blogospheric hybernation. Not a single link in the Web 2.0 daily chronicle TechMeme today. The new hot Google meme is GBuy, a competitor to eBay's PayPal.
Kraus' Jotspot Tracker sort of competes with Google Spreadsheets, which is in limited testing or perhaps controlled incubation, in the nascent market for Web-based spreadsheets. The hosted servicve, which includes a free personal version and subscription-based pro and team versions, is built on a collaborative, wiki foundation, as is Dan Bricklin's WikiCalc.
Like Google's executives, Kraus views his product as an alternative rather than as a direct Excel competitor...at least for now. "Replicating desktop applications will fall short so far, and the gaps will be noticeable," Kraus said. "You have to embrace the familiar Excel user interface and extend it will capabilities that you can't do on the desktop, such as version control in rows, attaching documents to rows, ground up sharing, mashups with maps and calendars...which are not in the realm of what Excel was meant to be," Kraus said. He cautioned that the transition to hosted, Web-based productivity applications will not happen overnight. "Office is a monster franchise. The shift to the Web is a monumental shift and will take longer than people in Silicon Valley would like to take," he said. However, Kraus hopes to accelerate the shift in blending the page creation capabilities of wikis with different page creation types.
What's clear is that Microsoft will continue to push Office as a corporate solution and cash cow, and the Web-based spreadsheets will inch forward as lower-end advertising-based or subscription-based alternatives for the masses. The question is whether Microsoft will cannibalize its own Office business with a Web-based productivity suite. I suspect the answer over the next year will be yes, despite statements by Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president of Office Productivity Applications, that there isn't any demand from Microsoft customers for a Web Office. If Web email (including Microsoft's MSN HotMail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail) can accrue millions of users, why not a 'good enough' spreadsheet or word processor? (Photo credit: JD Lasica)