Today's Capgemini announcement that it will support Google Apps, following on the heels of last week's Office 2.0 Conference, is another milestone in the relentless march from the desktop to the Web.
No, Google Apps isn't going to replace Office anytime soon, at least not among ordinary cubicle dwellers. Even when Web apps gain offline capability, as Google Apps rival Zoho Office already has, power Office users will turn up their collective noses.
Yet the Enterprise 2.0 buzz is deafening. Why not incorporate the lightweight, collaborative advantages of Web 2.0 into enterprise desktop computing? Especially when by comparison SharePoint and Lotus Notes/Domino offer such clunky solutions. And especially when (so far, at least) Web-based productivity apps cost nothing or almost nothing, which may be the real reason so many enterprise customers were reportedly lurking at the Office 2.0 show.
I can only imagine the thrashing that must be going on in Redmond right now. Microsoft can't simply pretend the trend doesn't exist, which is why the company felt compelled to issue a non-announcement last week about a new installer that would automatically update Windows Live services along with Windows XP and Vista. But it has steadfastly refused to go the Web productivity app route (except for Live Writer, which is not a serious attempt at a Web-based word processor).
Yes, I understand Redmond's aversion to cannibalizing its Office cash cow, but the fact is that Redmond could own this new space if it wanted to. All it would need to do is push interoperability and integration between lightweight Web versions of Office applications and its desktop fatware. Advanced features would be absent from the lightweight versions, but the company could ensure any Office doc would load on the Web -- whatever new desktop service packs and upgrades might appear -- and online document management could be integrated with Windows for offline access.
Of course, Microsoft may already be laboring mightily to make something like this work. Knowing the complexity of the company's licensing schemes, maybe it's crunching the numbers right now – the free version, the not-so-free version, the doodads for a onetime fee, and so on. The recent report by The Burton Group, which claimed that swapping Microsoft Office for Google Apps would be "a career-limiting move," is right on target. On the other hand, if Microsoft fails to act decisively much longer, some Redmond careers might be shortened, too.