The Office versus Google Docs dynamic may make for compelling headlines but for now Google still can’t touch Microsoft even with Web-friendly consumers, writes Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder in a new blog post on the day before Office 2010’s mainstream debut.
Office may be one of the few packaged software products left – along with games and security software – but Microsoft’s lucrative productivity suite still has a strong hold on businesses and consumers, says Gownder, adding that Office remains the most ubiquitous consumer client program aside from the Windows operating system.
According to Forrester’s recent “Consumer Technographics PC and Gaming” survey, 67 percent of U.S. online consumers regularly use Office at home, and only 4 percent of U.S. online consumers say they regularly use Google Docs.
[ For complete coverage of the Cloud App Wars — including a complete guide to the business war, the competing products including Google Docs and Office 2010, the implications for users and IT, and more — see CIO.com’s Cloud App Wars Bible. ]
“Let’s think about that for a second,” writes Gownder. “We’re talking about a free software-as-a-service offering from one of the top brand names in technology. The offering has been available for over three years from Google. And yet only 4 percent of consumers are onboard.”
It’s about the same on the business side. A March 2010 Forrester survey of 115 enterprise aned SMB IT decision makers showed that 81 percent of the respondents support Office 2007, 57 percent support Office 2003 or earlier and only 4 percent Google Apps.
With Office 2010, Microsoft has put “software plus services” strategy on display and on the line with the addition of Office Web Apps — bare-bones, Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Microsoft is walking the line between protecting its cash-cow client software while joining the Web-based productivity apps movement. But in the end, says Gownder, the business goal with Office 2010 is to “sell packaged client software and offer Web-based services to augment the experience.”
And Microsoft will succeed at doing so despite not being free or even inexpensive (like Google Apps).
Here’s why, according to Gownder.
—Consumers use it at work. Most people’s employers have trained them on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. With Office at home, it’s easier for consumers to bring work home when they want.
—Office 2010 was developed with vast customer inputs in mind. The Office team took the product development task seriously by adding features like sparklines in Excel, Outlook Social Connectors and Office Web Apps.
—It’s now complemented by Office Web. Office Web Apps are not a cure-all for all sharing and collaborating needs, but they will help consumers better manage files across multiple PCs and to share with their friends and co-workers.
—It will ship on many consumer PCs. Office 2010 will be ‘ready to unlock’ on new consumer PCs sold in coming years. With the purchase of a product key card, it becomes convenient for consumers to buy Office, even if they didn’t pick up a copy when they purchased the PC.
And what’s preventing Google Docs from gaining ground, despite being free?
The three main reasons, according to Gownder, are:
—As of today, browser-based programs offer a more limited experience than client software, a big advantage for Microsoft.
—Consumers have a deep and longstanding relationship with Office from years of working with files that were designed in and suited to the Office environment.
—Local computing power for consumers is plentiful and cheap. Unlike enterprises, consumers are not thinking “how can I move to ‘the cloud’?” Instead, they will use what’s most convenient. All that computing power in their existing PCs
still sits ready to use.
What do you think? Will Office 2010 help Microsoft maintain its comfortable lead on Google Apps?
Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.