Google Docs Has Mobile Upside as Schmidt Emphasizes Mobile First

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-14

Lost in the gloss of Google Docs' latest challenge to Microsoft Office was the fact that the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps have been optimized for smartphones.

Google April 12 unleashed a major upgrade to its Google Docs editors, rewriting the apps' code with HTML5 and accelerating the apps to improve the user experience.

See screenshots here of the upgraded documents, spreadsheet and presentation tools, which includes a peek at Google's new drawing tool to provide users with more graphically rich results.

Docs also now lets users view Google documents, spreadsheets and presentations and even edit spreadsheets through the mobile Web browser on Google Android, RIM BlackBerry and Apple's iPhone smartphones.

Google is now ensuring that Docs will run on mobile devices without modifications or other finagling. There is a caveat: BlackBerry users who want to edit spreadsheets must access them from the Opera Mini browser, Google said. 

For the most part, the Docs viewing experience should as good on smartphones as it is on the desktop, thanks largely to the Docs rewrite, which leveraged a new JavaScript layout engine in addition to HTML5, said Anil Sabharwal, enterprise product manager for Google Docs.

"This is a real competitive advantage for us," Sabharwal said.

The move to HTML5 also highlights the progress the Google Apps team has made in mobility from the original October launch of Google Docs for mobile, which was limited both in appearance and functionality. Users couldn't edit Docs content on mobile phones until 2009.    

This is a significant maneuver as Google looks to extend itself to the mobile enterprise, a sector where the iPhone is slowly but surely gaining traction.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt highlighted the importance for enterprises to consider mobile devices first when building their IT architectures. While this would seem anathema to most IT architects who perceive mobile devices as problematic because they don't support most enterprise apps, Schmidt insisted this is the right direction.

"What's really important right now is to get the mobile architecture right because mobility will ultimately be the way in which you provision most of your services," said Schmidt, who made his comments April 12 during Google's Atmosphere cloud computing event, which was where the Docs rewrite was unveiled.

Schmidt further advised enterprises to put their best team on their best app that enables a business process on smartphones, tablets and netbooks.

"The answer should always be mobile first," Schmidt declared. "Every company has people who are in motion that are with their customer. If that's where all the real action is going to be, then making sure you know what's going on in these mobile devices within the firm because your employees will come in and they'll want interoperability and security turns out to be really important."

Schmidt also underscored the core thrust of the Docs refreshment, noting that the "single most interesting development has been the arrival of the HTML5 standard."

The maturation of HTML5 bodes well for Web apps on the desktop, as well as on mobile devices, because it means apps won't trounce each other and won't be so virus sensitive. That's crucial for enterprise software. 

Rocket Fuel