Google’s lost Docs mojo: Has Microsoft won the online office wars?

Last week I spent the day at Xero’s Australian convention speaking to various cloud service companies, bookkeepers and accountants.

One of the notable organisations missing in the conversations was Google – two or three years ago, Google Apps would have been at the front and centre of conversations about cloud services and integration. But last week the company was barely mentioned.

Part of the reduced buzz around Google Apps at XeroCon is due to Xero’s closer relationship with Microsoft, but it also betrays how Google Docs is no longer the smartest, newest product on the block.

“We tried to eat their dog food, but our staff rebelled,” one manager of a marketing agency who worked with Google told me. “We thought we’d go Google Apps for all the work we were doing with them but we just found the products lacked the functions we needed.”

The main problem for business users are Google Docs’ slimmed down feature. While most people don’t use 95% of the tools included in Microsoft Word or Excel, each person uses a different 5% and find something critical missing from the cloud-based challenger.

For writers, Google Docs’ lack of a word count function is a deal breaker. Speakers find the Presentation function far too basic concerned to the Microsoft Powerpoint or Apple Keynote packages.

In the cloud computing industry, Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are all-important as these allow other services to plug into data and enhance value for users. Over the last two years, Microsoft has done a good job in cultivating its developer community while Google has taken its for granted.

Most importantly though is that Google seems to have lost focus on their productivity suite, it may be another example of the company’s corporate attention deficit disorder, or it may be that Microsoft have seen off another challenge to their dominance in that sector.

If it is the latter, then Microsoft has done a good job with Office 365 in seeing off the threat that Google posed.

Despite the company’s challenges in the post-PC, post-Gates era it would be dangerous to write Microsoft off.

Paul Wallbank‘s latest book, eBu$iness, Seven Steps to Online Success, shows how business can get online quickly and cost effectively using web 2.0, cloud computing, social media and e-commerce tools.


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