Microsoft's Office 2010 suite will succeed with consumers, insists a Forrester analyst, despite a general decline in consumer interest in packaged software. Office 2010 is scheduled to become available to consumers June 15, although the software has been available to business customers along with SharePoint 2010 since May 12.
"On the shoulders of Office 2010 rests nothing less than the defense of packaged software in general," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote June 14 on his eponymous blog. "Invariably, some reviews will compare Google Docs and Office Web Apps head-to-head as if they were meant to be comparable offerings. This is a mistake. Office Web Apps are a complement to the client program, more of a feature than a stand-alone competitor to Google Docs."
Microsoft announced June 7 the availability of Office Web Apps on SkyDrive for users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland. The platform allows users to view and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote documents online via Office.Live.com, although some advanced features have been reserved for the desktop-based Office 2010. Office Web Apps is widely seen as a Microsoft attempt to compete with Google Docs and other cloud-based productivity programs-the assumption Gownder said he considers somewhat inaccurate, at least at this juncture.
"In some ways, the Office versus Google Docs debate doesn't merit a lot of consideration-it's still no competition," Gownder wrote. "In terms of usage and penetration, Google Docs remains a failure-so far, anyway. Only 4 percent of U.S. online consumers say they regularly use Google Docs, according to Forrester's Consumer Technographics PC and Gaming survey."
According to a study by analysis company Gartner, Microsoft held 94.23 percent of the productivity software market in 2009, as measured by revenue, while Google held .09 percent.
According to Gownder, a number of reasons lie behind Google's relatively low market share: consumers' "deep, longstanding relationship with Office," the power and convenience of PCs for running desktop-based programs, and the "more limited experience" offered by browser-based applications compared with their desktop cousins. Office 2010, Gownder added, will remain "one of a dwindling breed of heavy-client programs (outside of gaming)" thanks to its prevalence in businesses, its Office Web component, its being preloaded on many new consumer PCs and its consumer-centric design.
Nonetheless, Microsoft could face something of an uphill battle to persuade customers to upgrade to Office 2010 from previous versions of the suite, none of which exhibited problems that would impel a mass migration. In its pitch to businesses, Microsoft has argued that Office 2010's new features would save money while boosting productivity.
"Organizations are adjusting to the new economic realities," Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, told an audience of business customers, media and analysts gathered for the Office 2010 business rollout on May 12. "Our employees expect the same technologies at home as in the marketplace. They want all of those technologies to work very well and seamlessly together."
Meanwhile, Google has been using the Office 2010 release to make a pitch of its own.
"If you're considering upgrading Office with Office, we'd encourage you to consider an alternative: upgrading Office with Google Docs," Matthew Glotzbach, Google enterprise product management director, wrote May 11 on the official Google Enterprise blog. "If you choose this path, upgrade means what it's supposed to mean: effortless, affordable and delivering a remarkable increase in employee productivity."
Google Docs offers an alternative that will "end the endless cycle of 'upgrades,'" Glotzbach wrote, adding that the only thing a business has to risk is "a server or two."