Don't hold your breath for office apps in the cloud

A recent Gartner report shows that the growth of cloud-based office automation applications is steady but slow

Claims that most organizations have moved, or are moving, to cloud email or cloud office systems don't square with research by Gartner: "Gartner estimates that there are currently about 50 million enterprise users of cloud office systems, which represent only 8 percent of overall office system users (excluding China and India). Gartner, however, predicts that a major shift toward cloud office systems will begin by the first half of 2015 and reach 33 percent penetration by 2017."

Gartner estimates that just 8 percent of businesspeople were using cloud office systems at the start of 2013, a number it predicts will grow to 60 percent by 2022. These cloud systems include email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations from providers such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

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Although cloud fans may be disappointed in these numbersg, 8 percent is a respectable use rate, given how entrenched local office productivity apps are on PCs, which have been the productivity platform for three decades. But I believe the shift to mobile devices will accelerate the adoption of cloud office systems, though local apps today rule there as they do the desktop.

I'm noticing that more and more people are doing "real work" on mobile devices, and in turn, corresponding office apps have become more popular, both cloud-based and locally installed. There's also a new wrinkle: hybrid local/cloud apps, such as Google's pairing of Google Apps and Quickoffice and Apple's upcoming cloud addition to its iWork suite. This will drive more use of cloud and cloud-local hybrid apps on PCs since we like to use the same software everywhere.

Even with a mobile boost, I suspect the growth of cloud office systems will remain slow for a few reasons. First, PCs and the office productivity software that runs on them are cheap -- and mobile office tools are even cheaper. Second, connectivity issues persist: You're not connected to the Internet all the time, and a metered connection typically costs money. Finally, there are still worries about security and privacy. The recent revelations about NSA monitoring of the Internet were not helpful.

Cloud office app adoption will grow more slowly than other cloud computing categories. We're too embedded with our existing applications to give them up so easily. However, most of us will eventually make the move.

This article, "Don't hold your breath for office apps in the cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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