Microsoft Office Vs.Google Docs: a Web Apps Showdown

Today, Redmond unveiled as a part of Office 2010 a suite of Microsoft Office Web apps that will compete directly with Google Docs. While Microsoft isn't letting anyone play around with the apps just yet, on paper, Microsoft's Web apps look like they could blow Google's online services out of the water -- beta or no beta.

By Ian Paul
Mon, July 13, 2009

PC World — The future may be the cloud, but it also may be Microsoft that ushers us into that realm of possibility and imagination, . Today, Redmond unveiled as a part of Office 2010 a suite of Microsoft Office Web apps that will compete directly with Google Docs. While Microsoft isn't letting anyone play around with the apps just yet, on paper, Microsoft's Web apps look like they could blow Google's online services out of the water -- beta or no beta.

Forget about the half measures of Office Live Workspace; Microsoft's new Web apps will let you create, edit, and save documents right online. Here's a quick head-to-head between Google and Microsoft Web apps.

(See related: Visual Overview of Office 2010 Features)

Price

For personal users, Microsoft's Web apps will cost the same as Google Docs: nothing. All you'll need is a Window Live ID, and you'll be able to use Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word online for free.

Winner: Tie

Look and Feel

Google Docs has a very nice basic feel to it, in keeping with the simplicity and ease of use that Google brings to its products. Microsoft, however, has no qualms about complicating things, and this time that attitude may yield good results. Microsoft says its Web apps will have a similar look and feel as their desktop counterparts, including the Ribbon feature. Microsoft also promises the Web versions of your formatted documents will render properly in most browsers, including Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox. There's no word on Microsoft's plans for the Chrome or Opera browsers.

Winner: Microsoft. You may have to switch browsers if you're a Chrome head or Opera freak, but that's a small price to pay for the look and feel of Microsoft Office in your Web browser.

Collaboration

One of the strong suits of Google Docs is real-time collaboration in the Web browser. Microsoft is bringing similar functionality and calling it co-authoring. What's not clear, however, is how exactly co-authoring works. Microsoft says you must save a document to a SharePoint server or a Windows Live site before you can collaborate, but the company doesn't say whether you can work together on a document right from the Web browser or if you need to use the desktop version. It's also not clear whether co-authoring works only on a private network, or if you can collaborate via the World Wide Web. I've asked Microsoft to clarify.

Winner: Google. Real-time collaboration right from the Web browser is a winning feature for ease of use and Google Docs will work from almost any computer with connectivity. Until Microsoft explains itself more clearly, we'll assume co-authoring will be limited.

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