Microsoft had the Web in a flurry this week with the long-awaited announcement of its Office 2010 Productivity Suite. Available June 15, the updated programs – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook – boast more than 100 upgrades from the 2007 version. The biggest feature that has everyone buzzing is the cloud computing option available to Office 2010 users, a response to the growing popularity of Google’s Web-based Docs app. Though Microsoft has made the new Office suite the best it has ever been, Google may still be able to edge out the software giant in the cloud-computing arena.
What makes Office 2010 the best yet? It’s ease of use. Microsoft has taken its popular ribbon interface (first available on the 2007 suite) and extended it to all of Office 2010’s programs, so users who are upgrading will be able to navigate each program with familiarity. Microsoft says the ribbon interface makes options more visual and reduces clutter on the screen, which helps to prevent mistakes and saves users time – a good reason to extend it to every program.
Other notable improvements for Office 2010 include real-time collaboration, increased security features, and improved editing features for multimedia. But what Microsoft really hopes will move users to upgrade is Web Apps, a cloud-based platform that will integrate with Office’s desktop programs. Web Apps will let users to upload documents from their computer to Microsoft’s cloud-based Docs.com, allowing for accessibility from any machine or device.
With nearly 94 percent market share, Word is unarguably the most popular document editing software available. C, Microsoft’s attempt to join the cloud-computing trend may be too little, too late. Google has been dominating cloud-based apps for years; it’s Docs app is fully equipped with software-level features, and is quickly gaining market share. Google’s solutions are attracting large-scale clients – notably colleges and universities – to use apps like Gmail and Docs as their primary mail and document management platforms. Just last week, Google Apps for higher education hit 8 million users, with more than 60 percent of U.S. institutions on board. Not only are Google’s solutions much cheaper for these institutions to employ, they offer more options than Microsoft.
Since the announcement, Microsoft and Google have been in a very public debate over which cloud-based program is the better of the two. Though Microsoft’s cloud computing debut may have some bugs right now, the software giant will most likely be able to improve it over time. Perhaps these tech giants should be focusing on their markets rather than just performance. Can Google and Microsoft coexist? Yes. Microsoft Office will most likely continue to target the enterprise market, consisting of large scale, established businesses who already rely on its suite of products. Meanwhile, Google should continue to target higher education, as well as start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. This would be a good strategy for Google, as new graduates would be more comfortable with their cloud services, slowly introducing Apps into a Microsoft-dominated world.
Cloud-based services are the future of computing. Soon, even our computer’s operating systems will rely on cloud computing. Google’s dominance in cloud computing technology, along with its innovation and accessibility, ensures its place as the leader in all things cloud-based. Microsoft’s solution is on-track, but its technology needs to be stronger for in order to last and make an impact in its target market. Google now has the chance to increase its market share and become the leader in productivity.