Are Google’s Productivity Apps Really Competitive With Microsoft’s?

Today, in a piece called “Google-Microsoft rivalry comes down to clouds or software,” ZDNet’s Dana Blankenhorn considers the specific advantages that Google and Microsoft have relative to each other. He notes that Microsoft’s release of the Office 2018 productivity suite, and its free online version, is causing many people to compare Google Docs to Office, and to consider whether Microsoft is really competitive in the cloud. On this topic, it’s worth remembering that Microsoft has been in the productivity app business a lot longer than Google has. 


In considering how Google and Microsoft compete with productivity applications and in the cloud, Blankenhorn says:

“The question is which is more powerful, the computing environment or the cloud itself? That’s the state of play. It’s not ‘who has the best cloud.’ Google does. It’s not ‘who has the best applications.’ Microsoft does.” 

I couldn’t agree more with that. Nevertheless, it’s amazing how quick people are–in a world of love for all things Google–to treat Google’s cloud-based applications as close competitors to Microsoft’s Office apps. The fact is, the Google apps don’t run anywhere near as deep as, say, Microsoft Excel or Word. Also, for reasons ranging from tie-ins to architectural and development tools such as .Net and Visual Basic, to existing macro libraries, Microsoft’s productivity applications reach out in directions that Google has never gone in. That alone will keep Microsoft’s applications entrenched in businesses. 

But Blankenhorn makes the good point that Google does lead in the cloud. That’s just irrefutable. The problem is, when it comes to the applications that business users reach for all day long, a cloud advantage is not enough. People actually care about the depth and quality of the applications they use. 

When Google delivers the open source Chrome OS in a few months, it will challenge users to work with all of their data in the cloud. Not some–all. That illustrates how heavily Google banks on its cloud advantage, and how little regard Google has for the basic, built-in depth of productivity applications. 

One suggestion that Blankenhorn serves up is for Google to take over stewardship of the OpenOffice suite and tie it in with Google Docs. Because the open source OpenOffice applications have deeper running feature sets than Google’s online apps, that would make sense. It still wouldn’t close the feature-vs.-feature gap between Microsoft’s and Google’s apps, though. Without a doubt, Microsoft has missed several steps in the cloud, but the company has been doing productivity applications for a long time, and it still has a lead in that arena.

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