10 Reasons Microsoft Office Shouldn't Fear Google Docs

News Analysis: Is Google Docs ready to take on the Office suite? With the release of Office 2010 coming up, Microsoft has made it clear that it's ready to defend its dominance in the productivity market against Google.

As Microsoft prepares to release Office 2010 to enterprise users and consumers in May and June, the product's ability to compete with Web-based productivity suites, especially Google Docs, is being called into question. Some say by virtue of being available online and accessible from any computer, Google Docs is better than Office. Some experts also say as Google continues to improve its software, the gap in power and effectiveness between Office and Google Docs is getting smaller. Plus, Office is expensive, while Google's service is offered for free.
Those arguments are certainly compelling. But to say Google Docs will be able to supplant Office or force Microsoft to make tough decisions regarding Office any time soon is ridiculous. Office 2010 might not be entering the kind of market that its predecessors did, but it's also not being released in a market that's against it. Google Docs is a fine software package with great promise. But over the next few years, the chances of it doing much damage to Office are slim.
Here's why:
1. Market share
Google has shown time and again that it can enter a market that has an entrenched leader and take it over. But it's doubtful that the company can do so in the office productivity space. Microsoft's Office software is in use by too many people and companies for Google to steal away significant market share. It's certainly possible for Google to take some share, but when all's said and done, Microsoft won't lose enough of the market for it to need to worry that Google is on its way to domination. For now, Office stands alone in its market and no other company's product can come close.
2. Microsoft's bottom line
Office contributes heavily to Microsoft's bottom line. Realizing that, Microsoft considers Office one of its most important products. As Google continues to deliver a Web-based alternative to Office, Microsoft should find comfort in its own desire to maintain status quo. If nothing else, Microsoft has shown that if it believes a particular software solution is important to its future, it will focus its energy on those areas. It did so with Windows to much success and it can do the same with Office if it's forced to. Google might do well, but Microsoft needs to remember that when a key application is being targeted, it can respond effectively.
3. Power is important
Try working with Office Excel and performing the many functions it offers. Now go to the Google Docs spreadsheet application and attempt to perform all those same tasks. Chances are, Google's alternative won't get the job done. That's a problem for Google. Although the company has done a good job of improving its offering, Google Docs is not nearly as powerful as Office. And for many users, losing that power is unacceptable.
4. Office is heavily entrenched
A version of Office is currently installed on the vast majority of computers worldwide. That's an important consideration when determining the viability of Google Docs. The biggest challenge Google faces is getting people to stop using Office and move to Google Docs. If Office weren't so ubiquitous, it would be easy, since the search giant's alternative is free. But Office is everywhere. And for most folks, getting the money they spent out of Office is important. Simply put, Office's ubiquity is a major obstacle for Google.
5. The enterprise trump card
The enterprise is Microsoft's trump card in the productivity market. Companies are simply unwilling to use any other suite because of their desire for something that can adequately deliver the kind of power and functionality they need. Google Docs cannot currently offer that kind of power. And it's doubtful that it will be able to match Office any time soon. The more Microsoft can capitalize on the enterprise and its desire for Office, the longer Office will reign supreme.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...