You know how Steve Ballmer spent his Thursday talk at the RSA conference touting Microsoft's commitment to (and leadership in) cloud computing? As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley put it, "there was no news," just posturing and remessaging. The next day, though, Google certainly made some news and spent $25 million on DocVerse to bring Microsoft documents more easily into Google's cloud environment.
By acquiring DocVerse, Google brought technology onboard that specifically enables high-fidelity editing of Microsoft Office documents in the cloud. In this case, it's clear that Google Apps just got itself a shot in the arm of Office compatibility. While Apps had certainly been able to import and export Microsoft Office formats in the past, formatting and the richness enabled by a desktop application were often lost in translation.
According to Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager with the Google Apps team (via InformationWeek),
Google isn't buying into Microsoft; rather it's buying a bridge from Microsoft Office to the world of cloud computing. There are, after all, some 600 million Office users out there, according to DocVerse, and getting them to migrate to Google Apps won't happen overnight.
The DocVerse software is actually a plugin to Office that allows the same sort of real-time collaboration and synchronous editing that can happen in Google Docs and, to a large extent, Microsoft's Sharepoint Server. All changes get saved to the cloud (what will now presumably be Google Docs since this service supports saving of any file type without conversion to Docs formats) and reconciled in real time, even as users continue to work within their desktop Office applications.
DocVerse also allows at least commenting and review of high-fidelity documents online from any web browser, even if the user doesn't have Office installed on the computer.
The real coup here, though, is that groups who are considering a move to Google Apps but are hesitant about losing the power of their desktop applications have no reason not to move. They can avoid setting up expensive Sharepoint infrastructures and use Office applications where appropriate while exploring the cloud-based utility of Apps. With Google's promise of increased fidelity within Apps this year as well, it seems as though this positions them quite handily to take Apps adoption to the next level. Apps becomes everything from an automatic online backup to an extension of Office that enables collaboration to a full-blown replacement, depending upon a group's requirements.