Selling the Cloud

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-04-19 Print this article Print

6. User misunderstanding

For years, consumers and employees have been using Office to type out documents, create spreadsheets and build presentations. They have become comfortable using Office. Trying to get them to switch to a Web-based solution will be one of Google's biggest challenges. Mainstream users are notoriously complacent. They don't see the need to switch to new products unless there is a compelling reason to do so. And trying something new can sometimes be intimidating. For the most part, users don't understand the idea behind Web-based productivity suites and many don't want to try to learn about them. Ballmer can rest easy knowing that.

7. The cloud is for niche markets right now

Following that, it's important to realize that the cloud is not yet on the mainstream user's radar. If Google or Microsoft polled average PC users right now and asked how they plan to integrate cloud computing into their lives, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of respondents wouldn't know. But if those companies polled IT professionals or top executives at companies, they would know for sure how the cloud could help them. Like anything else, it takes time for major tech trends to shift from the niche to the mainstream. The cloud is just one of those things. And Google Docs, unlike Office, relies on that realm.

8. Google's halfway strategy

Google's Google Docs strategy is somewhat perplexing. The company has consistently updated the software to make it more appealing to users, but it hasn't done enough to promote it as an alternative to Office. If it really wants to take on Microsoft, Google needs to do a much better job of marketing Docs as the next big thing in productivity. Mainstream users don't know that Google Docs could replace Office. And Microsoft certainly won't tell them. If Google doesn't actively seek out Docs users, Microsoft won't need to worry.

9. Time is on its side

When compared with Office, it's blatantly clear that Google Docs just isn't ready for widespread use. Yes, the software will work just fine for word processing, and some users might find its spreadsheets application useful enough. But Google needs to work hard at improving Docs over the next few years to eventually get it on the same level as Office. That won't be easy, since Microsoft has a big head start. Still, if Google wants its suite to be considered an alternative to Office, it needs to get to work on several improvements that could take a long time to implement. For Microsoft, that means a few more years before it needs to worry about Google.

10. Microsoft is online too

We can't forget that Microsoft is attempting to cut Google off at the pass by offering Office online. The company's Web integration won't be able to match Office 2010, but being able to switch from the desktop version of the software to a Web-based version to continue working while on the go should appeal to most users. So while Google might have a Web-based alternative to match Office, Microsoft is delivering both a desktop version and an online version of its software. That effectively gives users a choice that they can't get from Google. And that, like many other things, could stunt Google's growth in the productivity space.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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