On October 11, Google is going to take yet another run at providing hosted applications online in a form that users might find interesting, according to my blogging buddy Steve Bryant.
The so-called "GoogleDocs" project will be unveiled at the Office 2.0 conference, Bryant says. The new offering will merge Writely and Google Spreadsheets into a unified collaboration offering.
Should Microsoft be quaking in its boots (this time)? I’d like to say yes – after all, who doesn’t love a good fight? But given Google’s track record in this space, I’m inclined to say no.
When Google purchased Writely in March, the Redmond software maker yawned. When it rolled out Google Spreadsheets in June, Microsoft rolled over and went back to dreaming about untapped new monopolies. And when Google trumpeted Google Apps for Your Domain, a bundle of Google's e-mail, calendar, IM and page creation software, the blogosphere may have woken from its slumber for the day, but Microsoft (and some Microsoft watchers) barely blinked an eye.
Microsoft considered doing a GoogleDocs-like offering back in 2000. The Microsoft NetDocs suite was slated to provide e-mail, personal-information management, document-authoring tools, digital-media management and instant messaging in the form of a hosted service bundle. But Microsoft killed NetDocs before it ever had a chance to debut, allegedly fearing the effect such a bundle might have on its shrink-wrapped Office business.
Microsoft officials have said they are considering whether or not to provide Microsoft Works, Microsoft's scaled-down desktop-productivity suite, as a hosted offering. But that plan is not set in stone. And some parts of Microsoft's business, such as the Market Expansion unit, have a vested interest in seeing Microsoft maintain Works as software, as opposed to a service.
Microsoft Office users with whom I've spoken are not particularly interested in using Office in hosted form. They want to keep their confidential data on PCs. They are worried about rehosting and retraining. And they aren't keen on being without access to their mission-critical information, even for a moment, during any kind of planned or unplanned server outage.
Keep trying, though, Google. I really would love to see Microsoft have to contend with some real competition in this space. There's no reason that Windows users should have next-to-no viable alternatives to Office.