The word processing battle for the hearts and minds of computer users has moved from the personal computer to the cloud. This had to happen. Microsoft is the big gorilla in the word processing (and associated office applications) business, but they have continually addressed their need to sell more office applications by adding more features in each version and pretending that the real user need for easy collaboration, defined access and simple output might just go away over time.
Of course, collaboration, access and output are really the only three items users care about for most word processing applications. Now that Google, IBM, Adobe and a bunch of smaller companies are challenging Microsoft in the cloud wars, it is time for a handicapping.
Microsoft. Stuck between a profitable hard place and an Internet rock. They could give away the product but that will pillage the bottom line. They can try to sell ads (like Google) against the office applications, but that will never pass business muster. If ten is word processing in the cloud nirvana, Microsoft is stuck with a 4.
Google. Google loves search and everything else is secondary. The shared documents work well, although items like word wrap and output options are limited. Give them a 5.
Adobe. Adobe bought buzzword and brings a legacy of word processing expertise that can’t be matched. They could be the one to watch here as they know more about presentation and document output than anyone else. Give them a 5 with a possible quick move up.
IBM. The biggest roadblock to companies adopting the office application cloud are worries about regulatory compliance and document security and management. IBM has some strong cards to play in this area and is also has the Lotus legacy history about balancing online and offline application interplay. I’d give them a 6 in capabilities.
All the little guys. Better get bought by a big guy to survive in this lake.