Microsoft Office faces a new competitor with Google Cloud Connect, which seeks to draw Office users into using Google collaboration software.
Google has released Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which allows
users to save their Office documents in Google Docs. Offered as a Web-based
alternative, the free software plug-in represents yet another Google foray into
cloud productivity. The question is, how much of a threat does it pose to
Microsoft, which is also trying to expand its cloud offerings for Office
As eWEEK's Clint Boulton explains in his Google
Cloud Connect breakdown, the software not only saves copies of a user's
Office documents to the Google Docs cloud, where they can be edited
simultaneously by other users, but syncs them for access from a variety of PC
and mobile devices. Cloud Connect works with Office 2003, 2007 and 2010; it
will be accessible starting in 2011 to anyone with a Google account, although
customers who already pay for Google Apps for Business can test the software
Multiple workers can edit Cloud Connect-enabled documents from within
Office. Despite Cloud Connect's entwining Google and Microsoft functionality,
however, Google's purpose in pushing the software seems fairly clear and
one-sided: By drawing users' Office documents into the cloud for collaboration
and storage, the search engine giant hopes to increase Google Apps'
attractiveness over Microsoft Office.
Google's release comes just as Microsoft itself makes a major move into
cloud-based productivity. In October, the company launched its Office 365 in
limited beta. A rebranding of the company's BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite,
Office 365 combines Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and
Lync Online into a unified cloud platform.
In combination with cloud platforms such as Windows Azure and smaller
offerings along the lines of Office Web Apps, Office 365 is Microsoft's
acknowledgment that, despite its storied rise as a creator of desktop-centric
software, its future resides in the cloud. Microsoft's "all in" cloud strategy,
in part, revolves around offering businesses access to applications and IT
services over the Web.
The cloud space is so important to both companies, it seems, that Microsoft
and Google are more than happy to lunge at each others' throats in defense of
their product lines. Earlier in November, news broke that Google had filed a
lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the U.S. Department of
the Interior unfairly restricted the search engine giant's ability to bid for a
contract to update its e-mail and messaging system. Microsoft's
BPOS-Federal suite won that $59 million contract.
Both companies have engaged in a tit-for-tat competition over large clients
for cloud services, with Microsoft recently signing a contract with New
York City to give a percentage of municipal employees
access to cloud-based Microsoft applications. That followed Google's agreement
to provide cloud-based applications to Los Angeles
Will Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office change the competitive
dynamic between Google and Microsoft's productivity offerings? A few months
ago, the situation would have been very different; but the recent spate of
Microsoft cloud offerings, combined with initiatives such as Facebook Messages'
integration with Microsoft Office, places Redmond
in a better position to compete with its Mountain View
rival. As with smartphones, the battle for online-productivity dominance is
still in its early stages.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.