Google announced today that it is putting its $25 million acquisition of DocVerse into practice with Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office.
The Google Cloud Connect feature is a free plug-in for Microsoft Office that allows Office users to sync Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs to Google’s cloud service. The service is legacy-minded, and works with Office 2003, 2007 and 2010.
After the plug-in is downloaded, what Cloud Connect essentially does, according to Google blog post, is sync and back up an Office document, and then deliver a unique URL that provides access to the latest version of the doc from any browser through Google Docs.
[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration software — including enterprise and cloud adoption trends and reviews of SharePoint 2010 — see CIO.com’s SharePoint Bible. ]
Once they are synced with the Google Docs cloud service, Office docs can be shared and simultaneously edited by multiple people, all from within Office. As files are edited, full revisions are stored in Google Docs so users can revert back to older versions. None of these features are new to the Google Docs service, but now they are extended to Microsoft Office.
It’s doubtful that Microsofties are losing sleep over this, but there’s a strategy at play here for the cunning Google that’s bigger than just syncing Word Docs with a Google cloud service.
First, Google has wisely stopped living in a fantasy land where businesses and consumers are storming the gates to use Google Docs to create and edit word processing, spreadsheet and presentation docs. This isn’t happening much, certainly not nearly to the extent that it happens with the ubiquitous Microsoft Word. So Google is coming at the problem from another angle: exploit Office’s success. Establish a presence within the most popular productivity apps and use it to open a door to your own service. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Sorta.
Google understands at this point that what most people like about Google Apps is its e-mail, calendar and document sharing features. But the Cloud Connect feature gives Google an opportunity to get more users (i.e. potential customers) on the Google Docs playground; if it’s via an Office document, so be it. You will end up having people use Google Docs who otherwise would not.
In addition to potentially luring upgrade- and software license-weary users away from Office, Google’s Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is also a direct challenge to Microsoft’s nascent Office Web Apps and even SharePoint.
Office Web Apps and SharePoint both offer document sharing and collaboration tools too. But Office Web Apps don’t have the full feature set of the Office desktop suite and SharePoint is, well, expensive. Also, Microsoft has been not-so-gently nudging users to upgrade to Office 2010 to get the latest and greatest features.
The big appeal, then, of Google Cloud Connect is that it is a way to sync and provide online collaboration using the full features of all versions of Office. You don’t have to pay Microsoft for that pesky upgrade to Office 2010 to get online document co-authoring and such.
Using Office docs as an entry point into Google Apps is a nice turning of the tables. But will enterprises care? Many may enjoy the opportunity to use Google Docs to avoid, or at least put off, a pricey Microsoft Office upgrade.
What do you think?
Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org.