GOffice – what’s the big deal?

It is not a surprise that Google officially launched Google Apps Premier which is a bundled package of their hosted offerings for word processing, spreadsheets, email, calendaring, and instant messaging.  I wrote about this in the fall of 2004 when Adam Bosworth joined Google from Microsoft and wrote a lengthy blog post on the web-based platform.  Google has clearly been executing on this vision over the last two years, but I do not see this as a Microsoft killer.  While I am huge fan of web-based software and data in the cloud, there is one big problem – you always need to be connected.  For the last two weeks I have been living in a web-based world as I had to send my laptop back for service.  While I could do everything I needed to do, I must admit I was about 60% as productive as usual.  This lack of productivity partly came from clicking and waiting in my web-based Exchange offering and partly due to lots of travel which meant I could do absolutely nothing on the airplane.  What I see Google Apps doing is breaking the market into two segments – those who want to easily share and collaborate information with others in a lightweight manner and the power users who live, eat, and breathe in their productivity applications.  I certainly see myself using Google Spreadsheets to post some information on my blog but it will be a long time, before I even think about replacing my desktop productivity applications. In the meantime all of this is great for consumers as competition is forcing Microsoft to rethink their whole application strategy by incorporating a SAAS component into most of their offerings.  I can only assume that Microsoft will get better at this and make it easier for their users to work online and offline in a seamless manner.  In my web-based world, disconnected applications with an online component will rule.  Let’s see what the Adobe Apollo platform brings to the world later this year.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

11 comments on “GOffice – what’s the big deal?”

  1. Ed:

    It seems your comments or issues related to Gmail apply to all software as a service and web based applications. Yet, from reading this blog, you have long been a proponent of SAAS. How do you reconcile these two points?

    Thanks . . .Al C.

  2. Ed, Excellent! You have boiled the issues down to exactly where the challenge is…seamless integration of offline and online experience.

    Ray Ozzie calls this the Client /Server / Services continuum. It means having substantially the same experience online and offline, and the same features across all devices. Sounds easy, but its not.

    Microsoft Outlook Web Access did this about 10 years ago.It has steadily improved, and the same model will be extended to other Microsoft products.

    Office Live is available now, but there is a lot more coming. Microsoft is building two $500 million data centers to host the online apps.

    The wheels are in motion to do all of this, although Microsoft is staying pretty quiet about it for now.

    How do you think Google will respond? Can they solve the offline problem? Client based applications are far more powerful and responsive even when you do have online access. How will Google respond to that?

    Google has all the press buzz now, and consumers love them. But business customers are much more demanding, and less suceptible to hype.

    This will be a battle of the titans. I wouldn’t bet against Microsoft. And yes, I work for Microsoft, so you know where my bet is.

  3. Al-great question. I love SAAS and have been investing in the market since 1999 when these companies were called Application Service Providers. OK, the great news was that I was able to do my work and access my corporate email. Even better is the fact that the web-based software has gotten exponentially better since 2 years ago with the use of AJAX and other client side scripting. However it is not a perfect experience and needs to be enhanced. My specific point above is with respect to productivity applications which require tons of clicks and interaction for heavy users (think power Excel users or the pain it would be if you had to create a Powerpoint presentation purely online). For these types of users or applications which are reliant on heavy graphics, I don’t see SAAS as a pure replacement but an enhancement. Google’s offering will open up a whole new market for less sophisticated users (think consumers and some SMBs) and those who want to easily collaborate, communicate, and share their thoughts. However, this does not mean that I believe Microsoft will be destroyed overnight. Nor does this diminish my excitement about web-based software since the great news is that it is getting better and better.

    Think about some of the most successful SAAS-based players today which are Salesforce.com (requires significant collaboration and sharing), Citrix Online and WebX (meeting/collab services), and Rightnow and Liveperson (customer service for websites) – they are inherently applications based on sharing and communication. I am sure this will change in the future as we see better platforms for delivering a seamless offline/online experience and as SAAS offerings improve

  4. Going on-line and off-line is a big challenge. Until we are all connected – all the time – we will require seamless on-line/off-line solutions. Microsoft is dominating off-line and Google seems like its getting a real grip on the on-line world.

    There is a clash of two strategies:

    Google: Build a massive on-line infrastructure first. Then let thousands of developers build connected applications (for on and off-line)

    Microsoft: Build key off-line applications and then build some on-line infrastructure yourself and some by partners (hosted server software).

    Right now Google looks pretty unstoppable to me. Take our example:
    We are now developing an FREE open source “business application platform” (think salesforce.com). Our first application is working tightly integrated with GOOGLE APPS (through its API). And here is where value is created. (check out the beta at http://www.applicationexchange.com)
    We simply can not do that with Microsoft online services.

    The adoption of the Google Apps API in the next 6-12 month will draw a good picture of the things to come.

    I would not wonder if the seamless collaboration is just around the corner.

  5. The main difficulty for Google Apps will be the lead time until it can efficiently replace Microsoft’s offline applications. The critical mass of users that they’ll need won’t be reached until continuous online connections become an affordable, dominant choice in connectivity.

    Microsoft has several years to respond to Google’s strategy and MS’s recent strategy of purchasing such knowledge as opposed to developing it internally leads me to believe that they’ll buy instead of build the necessary technology. This strategy should create significant opportunities for Web 2.0 startups advancing MS Office abilities.

  6. What if a company created a software-as-a-service company where they created a suite of web-based products in the following areas: Browser-base Operating System, Productivity Applications, Department-level Business Applications, Messaging & Collaboration Software, and a Database Management System. While using the Cloud Computing Technologies as the business model.

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