Google: Firms can 'get rid' of Office in a year

Search giant sets sights on office software leader, Microsoft Office, with "30 to 50 updates" to be released for Google Docs next year, says top exec.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

SINGAPORE--In a year, most enterprises will have the choice to "get rid of [Microsoft] Office if they chose to", suggests Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise division.

Girouard, one of the company's four presidents including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia that he expects Google's online document application, Google Docs, to reach a "point of capability" next year that will serve the "vast majority's needs".

He acknowledged that Docs is currently "much less mature" than Google Mail or Calendar. "We know it. We wouldn't ask people to get rid of Microsoft Office and use Google Docs because it is not mature yet," he said.

But, this is expected to change in a year, when the company's introduces some "thirty to fifty" updates to Docs to beef up the SaaS (software-as-a-service) office suite. These will include updates to features and performance, Girouard said.

"That having been said, I don't think Office will entirely disappear," he added. Instead, Microsoft's offering will become a specialized offering for office workers who need its additional functions, akin to Adobe Photoshop, which is targeted at skilled workers, said Girouard.

Microsoft Office is "an overkill tool for most people", he noted.

Microsoft recently released Exchange 2010, the first product to be updated within its Office suite, and announced price cuts to its SaaS Office offerings.

Girouard admitted Google Docs is "not perfect" at retaining the intricacies of other document formats imported into the platform, but he said it "will get there".

Eventually, he added, market demand will push vendors away from proprietary formats entirely, making this barrier less of a likelihood in future.

Users demand format agnosticism
People who have grown up in the Internet age, having been exposed to the ideals of open formats, have developed "strong beliefs" in user ownership of data--"what data [users] want, when they want to take it back and what app they want to use", he explained. These ideals will be carried into enterprises as this generation matures, he added.

A document format feud was sparked off in 2007 with Microsoft's creation of a document standard it called, OOXML (Office Open XML), to rival community-developed ODF (Open Document Format).

The debate between open format proponents and supporters of Microsoft's format reached a peak last year when OOXML attained ISO (International Organization for Standardization) ratification.

Joining in the support for ODF, Google had labeled OOXML "insufficient and unnecessary" in February last year.

But, the world is past this issue, according to Girouard. "I don't know if we're too worried about pushing ODF. That's sorting itself out.

"The way the world is heading, that's less of an issue everyday... The ability for a vendor to determine what software users can use to access data is going away," he said.

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