As Microsoft celebrates the full release of Office 2010, it finds itself resorting to something it has seldom done in the productivity apps space: Play defense. In particular, it faces a noisy challenge from Google Apps.
Microsoft Office has been synonymous with desktop productivity apps in much the same way that Kleenex is synonymous with tissues or Band-Aid is synonymous with adhesive bandages. But then came the cloud and, with it, collaboration and mobile workers. The productivity apps space has changed, and now sitting at one's desk banging out Word docs isn't good enough anymore; employees need to be able to work away from their desks and with others.
[ See InfoWorld's report on Google and Microsoft taking aim at each other's strengths. | As Microsoft and Google slug it out, companies like Mainsoft are finding a niche in bridging the gap between the two titans. ]
Microsoft's response has been to make tighter integration with SharePoint a key selling point of Office 2010 and throw in Office Web Apps for free. By leveraging SharePoint, Office 2010 is much more collaboration-friendly than previous Office iterations have been. But that's too little too late, according to a blog post by Salesforce.com's Peter Coffee: "The vision of collaboration found in SharePoint 2010 dates back to 2007, when Microsoft shipped the previous release."
Google, meanwhile, isn't interested in a head-to-head battle of productivity apps -- after all, Office holds more than 80 percent of the market share. Rather, Google's pitch is how well Google Apps works as an enhancement to, rather than a replacement for, Office.
This is a shrewd move on Google's part. Microsoft has struggled to come up with a compelling reason to adopt the last few Office upgrades; Ribbon UIs and a few extra Word and Excel functionalities aren't exactly game-changers. But as collaboration becomes less a luxury and more a necessity, Office 2010 finally has that compelling reason, in the form of SharePoint integration and Office Web Apps. Google's response: Why give more money to Microsoft when you can add Google Apps to the Office software you already have for free?
Google knows it's not going to get millions of people to dump Office and become Google Apps users. But as Office accounts for more than half of Microsoft's profits, any success with the "Google Apps instead of Office 2010" pitch will hurt Microsoft's bottom line.
This story, "Google jeers at Microsoft's Office 2010 campaign," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Killer Apps and follow the latest developments in applications at InfoWorld.com.