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Could it be the consumer that actually wins the office productivity software war?

Could it be the consumer that actually wins the office productivity software war?

Google has a new ad campaign that is directly taking on Microsoft’s baby, Office. Google has been doing very well head-to-head against Microsoft’s Internet service offerings; however, office productivity is one area where they may just be out of their league.  This is a serious revenue source for Microsoft, and they will play for keeps.

Microsoft has recognized the threat of Google Apps and has started to move in its lumbering pace towards a confrontation. Look at the deployment options consumers will have in the next release of Microsoft Office. Office 2010 will have a web-based version similar to Google Apps, mobile device support, and a full-blown application for local installation. Microsoft has even announced that it would have an ad-supported consumer version of Office Web Applications, the web based Office application.

I have been using Microsoft’s Office Live Workspace for several months and it is a great service. It is web-based collaborative storage service that integrates very well with Microsoft Office. This foundation is a glimpse of the future Office Web Applications.  Additionally, the Microsoft Web Applications will not have some of the document conversion issues that are encountered when working with Microsoft Office files in Google Apps.

Google Apps is a quality application suite, and I have written positively about my experience with the suite.  I still use Google Apps to host my personal e-mail domain. Even though the applications are well designed and feature rich, they are not Microsoft Office or even Open Office. I am reading and hearing of more deployments of Google Apps in education and at municipal government level.  This has the potential to save these institutions substantial amounts of money, but I am not sure how they are addressing the inherent security issues that come with Internet based data storage.

For me, I have to question Google’s focus. Google is moving forward on many different fronts and against large established competitors. Below is a list of a few Google products and the associated competitors. The more I think about it, it does seem like Google has a target in mind.

Offering

Function

Competitors

Android Mobile Device OS Microsoft, Apple, Nokia, RIM, etc.
Chrome Web browser Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera
Chrome OS Operating System Microsoft, Apple, Open Source
Apps Office productivity Microsoft, IBM, Open Source, Sun, etc.
Gmail Email Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, etc.
Search Web, Enterprise, Desktop Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.

Microsoft and Google know the value of business consumers, and they will fight long and hard for their dollars. Office productivity is a core technology suite with large budgets in most corporations. In Microsoft’s latest 10-K filing, they report the Microsoft Business Division annual revenue at $18,894,000,000.  Microsoft Office systems generate over 90% of Microsoft Business Division revenue; this is serious business indeed.

No one will argue that Microsoft does not have the strongest brand and market penetration with Office. From a typical business professional point of view, and given that the access methods were similar, which would you choose Microsoft Office or Google Apps? I am betting that it would be Microsoft Office. To the majority of users, it is a known application interface and the file format is globally supported in the business community. Especially when you take into account that under the new Office 2010 business software licensing agreements that employees working from their non-primary computer, like from home, will have access to the non-ad supported web version at no additional cost. This is reminiscent of the good old days when the 80/20 software deployment rule was standard.

Both programs are going to get even better and the product offerings will only improve under stiffer competition. Microsoft should come out on top as long as they do not rest on their laurels. Ultimately, the consumer will have access to better applications no matter where they are located and at lower cost.  Will this application access freedom be an IT headache? You bet it will, and I can see the arguments brewing now.  In fact, I have already participated in a few.

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