Sleep tight, Google Apps; Microsoft's Docs for Facebook is no threat - yet

Microsoft Docs.com for Facebook - a contender against Google Docs someday, but not yet.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

One of the headline grabbers to come out of yesterday's Facebook developer's conference was Microsoft's Docs.com, which some have already started to call a Google Docs killer.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

That's not to say that Microsoft's FUSE Labs, which has spent about four months putting together docs.com, hasn't done a nice job with it. If you're a fan or - or even just a forced user of - Microsoft Word, Excel and/or Powerpoint. you'll feel at ease with docs.com. But the integration of it with Facebook, as well as their desktop counterparts, makes it awkward and clunky.

I was given a first-run version of docs.com to check out. It's still a little rough around the edges and not ready for prime time, in my opinion. The page load times are painfully long and some of the most basic tasks - such as simply adding a column to an online Excel spreadsheet caused the browser to freeze up. It ran into a number of errors trying to import a Microsoft Excel file.

It kind of reminded me of my experiences with Vista.

Google deserves a lot of credit for what it's done with Google Docs and the entire apps suite. Sure, Google Docs is a bit slim on the tools and features that we've come to expect from Microsoft Word but the important tools - the ones I really need for everyday tasks - are there. Likewise, some tools - such as real-time collaboration - show that Google truly "gets it" when it comes to how people want to collaborate.

MIcrosoft's version for Facebook falls short. But the thing for everyone - including Google - to remember is that docs.com has some potential to become a real contender if Microsoft steps up its game on collaboration. I certainly hope that the company plans to take the docs.com concept beyond the Facebook crowd only - though it doesn't sound like it. Here's why that's a problem:

  • Word, Excel and Powerpoint are productivity tools - and productivity tools are primarily still for the work environment. That's where Google's big push is.
  • Many work environments are still searching for the business value of Facebook, besides being a time suck on the productivity of their employees. Many still block access to social networking sites, which basically makes docs.com useless for those office workers who are most likely to be collaborating with.
  • And how many of you are Faecbook friends with - or better yet, care to be Facebook friends with - everyone who you have to collaborate with at work? There are some people who keep their Facebook profiles limited to real-world friends. There are others who - believe it or not - choose to not use Facebook at all.

Microsoft's docs.com for Facebook isn't a Google Docs killer. It's a Google Docs validator, a knee-jerk reaction to a threatening competitor. Microsoft may be on to something - but for now, the folks developing the Google Apps suite can sleep tight tonight. Docs.com isn't much of a competitor.

Also see: Is Microsoft Docs really a 'Google Docs killer' and four other questions (and answers)

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