As Microsoft prepares to release Office 2010, it’s facing unprecedented pressure. Unlike so many previous releases, Office 2010 is being challenged by a competitor that has the presence, respect, and perhaps most importantly, the cash, to take on Office and give it a legitimate fight.
The debate over when that fight will start is heated. Some say that Google has already started the battle against Microsoft, while others say that there is little chance of Google even being able to compete with Office for quite some time.
But the latter contention might be short-sighted. Google recently made public a list of why users, especially enterprise customers, should consider switching from Office to Google Docs. In that list, the company took aim at Office’s pricing and how it utilizes servers to perform tasks companies can do for free on Google Docs.
It also examined the differences between Google’s cloud efforts and those of Microsoft. The company made a compelling argument that could make some enterprise customers (and individuals) think twice about Office 2010. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s additions to Office 2010 make it clear that the company is concerned about Google.
Simply put, the battle between Google Docs and Office 2010 is heating up.
Let’s take a look at what Microsoft needs to do to stymie Google’s growth and ensure that Office 2010 follows its predecessors in leading the office-productivity market.
1. Remember market share
The last thing Microsoft should do in its battle with Google is forget that it holds a dominating position in the office-productivity market. In fact, the latest tallies put Office at more than 90 percent market share in the space – much higher than anything Google has been able to muster up to this point. Because of that, Microsoft has a built-in advantage. It can use its market share to maintain control over the space and dictate what consumers want. After all, if they get comfortable with a feature that’s already available in the software they’re using, the onus is on Google to catch up. Being the dominant player is always a good thing.
2. Don’t forget the Web
Google has been able to make some inroads in the productivity market because of its focus on Web services. Google Docs works extremely well and can be accessed from anywhere a person can find a Web connection. In the enterprise, Google Apps, which includes Gmail, Docs, and other key Google cloud tools, performs just as well. Microsoft is slowly but surely making its way to the Web with a new online Office tool and Azure, but it might not be enough. Microsoft needs to start transitioning some of its core businesses to the Web to ensure Google doesn’t take an insurmountable lead.
3. Consider pricing changes
Office 2010 is expensive. That might not be anything new to the majority of Office owners that have paid the substantial sum in the past, but going forward, such high prices might not be good for Microsoft. Consider the fact that anyone can use Google Docs for free right now. Enterprise customers can use Google Apps, which includes Google Docs and several other enterprise-friendly features for just $50 per user per year. Microsoft’s Office 2010 Professional costs a whopping $499. Microsoft would say that the premium it’s charging is for the extra power users get with Office 2010. But whether or not all that extra power warrants such a high price tag could be called into question the more users realize Google Docs does some nice things for little or no fee.
4. The enterprise is the key to this
Microsoft’s success has always relied on the enterprise. Without corporate help, Windows wouldn’t be the success that it is today, Office wouldn’t hold such dominating market share, and Microsoft itself wouldn’t be so profitable. Going forward, Microsoft’s success or failure will continue to rely on the enterprise. If Google can find a way to steal some company market share away from Microsoft, it will be cause for alarm. And unfortunately for Microsoft, it seems that Google is focusing some of its efforts there. Office 2010 needs to be Microsoft’s tie to the enterprise; it can’t be the reason companies have switched to something else.
Microsoft Needs Work Hard to Keep Office on Top
5. Work on an advertising campaign
It might seem rather premature for Microsoft to get going on an advertising campaign, considering how successful Office has been, but it’s a good idea. The vast majority of users around the globe are already using Office and few will likely see the need to switch anytime soon. By advertising the benefits of using the new version of Office, Microsoft can coax some of those customers that are currently on the fence to buy Office 2010. It would also help to counteract some of Google’s recent marketing maneuvers.
6. Ignore Google publicly (but not privately)
In those advertising campaigns, Microsoft must ignore Google completely. As the old rule goes, a company that’s in a dominant position in the market should not call attention to the company that is trying desperately to catch up. It’s up to Google to find ways to gain public attention. Microsoft shouldn’t help. At the same time, Microsoft simply cannot ignore Google’s moves. The company should be monitoring improvements made to Google Docs and match them where appropriate. In other words, Microsoft should ignore Google publicly and keep a watchful eye on the search giant privately.
7. Maintain the power lead
One of the key selling points for Office is its power. Those that use Excel and then compare it to Google Spreadsheets will find a major difference between the two platforms’ ability to handle difficult tasks. Excel can do an exceptional job of performing just about any task a company or individual throws at it. Google’s Spreadsheets tool cannot. That doesn’t mean that Google Docs is worse than Office or that it can’t be improved, but right now, it’s a weak alternative. Microsoft needs to focus on that and ensure with every new improvement made to Office that it maintains a sizable power lead over Google.
8. Remember real-time collaboration
One of the main points Google made in its blog post detailing why enterprises should switch to Google Apps was its ability to deliver real-time collaboration in any of the apps in Google Docs. Although Google mentioned that Microsoft’s online Office suite delivers real-time collaboration in Excel, but it requires SharePoint to work. Although Microsoft hasn’t focused much of its time on real-time collaboration, it’s going to be an even more desired feature in productivity suites going forward. It needs to double-down on that now to ensure Google doesn’t take a major lead.
9. Forget the past
The last thing Microsoft should want to do right now is get complacent. Although Office 2010 is carrying the torch of a highly successful program, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the future will be as bright as the past has been. Google is gunning for Office and it has proven time and again that it knows how to attract a customer base to products that, at first glance, don’t seem to offer the kind of value the search giant claims. Realizing that, Microsoft cannot afford to rest on its laurels in the faulty belief that its past success will guarantee future profits. Google is too capable (and powerful) for that.
10. Look towards the future
Microsoft should be looking towards the future. Office 2010 will not be the last version of the venerable software to be released. And depending on when Microsoft releases a follow-up, it’s entirely possible that the next iteration of the software will be facing a stronger, more-capable Google. Realizing that, Microsoft should get to work now on ensuring that it doesn’t miss the mark in the next version of Office. For now, Office 2010 looks like it will perform well. But the next version of Office might not. Microsoft must remember that and consider the possibility of one of its core businesses being overrun by Google.
Look forward, Microsoft. It will keep your operation successful.