The near total dominance of Microsoft Office in the workplace may be getting a serious challenge from Google Docs, according to a new survey by market research firm IDC.
The study's main finding is that about 1 in 5 companies reported that Google Docs is "widely used" in their workplace, however possibly as a compliment to Microsoft Office.
IDC surveyed 262 people, a significant number of whom are senior managers at various-sized businesses, which points to rapidly increasing interest in Google's cloud-based office application.
A similar survey by IDC, a sister company of Computerworld's parent company, IDG, in December 2007 found that 5 percent of those surveyed reported that Google Docs was "widely used" at their workplace. IDC's most recent survey, done in July, found wide use of Google Docs in 19.5 percent of the companies surveyed.
"Google Docs is not yet supplanting Microsoft, but the fact that Google Docs is being picked up so quickly shows tremendous momentum, and that's a huge threat to Microsoft," said Melissa Webster, the IDC analyst who conducted the survey.
Despite Google Docs' growth, Microsoft Office's use in the workplace was essentially unchanged in this survey, with more than 97 percent reporting that Office remains widely used, indicating that workers are using both tools. But Webster said Google Docs may cannibalize Microsoft"s opportunity around its own Web-based tools, said Webster.
The IDC survey didn't seek data on how many users had contracted with paid Google Apps services. It's possible the survey figures include ad hoc adoption -- decisions by employees to use Google Docs for collaboration, something that the IT department may be aware of but isn't officialy using.
But Webster believes use of Google Docs in the workplace, for whatever the reason, may increase the negotiating clout of Microsoft's customers. "Just the threat of a company going to Google Docs could potentially provide the leverage that a buyer might want on negotiating an upgrade to Microsoft Office," she said.
This data from IDC comes at the same time that the U.S. government and Google are boring ahead with plans to encourage interest in cloud-based services.
The U.S. CIO, Vivek Kundra, this week launched Apps.gov, a cloud-based combination app store and services similar to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
And Google this week announced its own plans to set up Web based Google Apps for the government, and build datacenters and networks that meet government security regulations -- similar to the kinds of certifications that government contractors running datacenters are required to get.