June 6, 2006 1:40 PM PDT

Google guns for Microsoft

Google's launch of a Web-based spreadsheet on Tuesday is further proof that the company is eyeing Microsoft's Office stronghold. Now the question is: Should Microsoft be worried?

Google on Monday unveiled Google Spreadsheets, an addition to its roster of Web-based productivity applications that includes Google Calendar, launched in April, and Gmail, launched two years ago.

In March, Google acquired Writely, a collaborative word processor that runs in a browser. The company hasn't made clear its plans for that product and it remains in the beta stage of testing.

Still, as the pieces come together, there's little doubt that Google is quietly providing Web-based versions of the Office applications upon which Microsoft has built an empire.

"It does represent by Google a step onto Microsoft territory and yet another reason for Microsoft to try to cut off Google's ad-driven air supply," said Rob Helm, director of research at the analyst firm Directions on Microsoft.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is revamping its business to focus on Web services under the Windows Live and Office Live names, and retooling its advertising technology to target Google's bread-and-butter ad market.

Google Spreadsheets will appeal to consumers who have never used a spreadsheet program before, said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch.com.

"If you use this (Google's products) you may not have to use all the Microsoft products. Google has put together pieces of a whole suite," he said. "They are rudimentary tools. They're not going to immediately cause people to replace things, but for some people who don't want to pay for software and don't need to pay for extended features, this will be very attractive."

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Video: Google wants your spreadsheets
Excel has a formidable foe

Advanced users will want to stay away from Google Spreadsheets because of its more limited features, other analysts agreed.

"Google has no clue about what enterprises want or need. Any success they have (with Google Spreadsheets) will come in the consumer market first and then be dragged into the enterprise that way," said Gartner analyst David Smith. "The real power-users are not going to be giving up their Excel spreadsheets anytime soon."

JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg questioned Google's strategy and said Microsoft shouldn't be worried.

"It's hard to imagine how either of these things (Spreadsheets or Writely) is strategic to their business. They have nothing to do with Google's core business of search," he said. "And it's hard to imagine how either one would have an impact on Microsoft or Office. There have been free alternatives to Office for years, and none have gained traction."

Microsoft does not have a hosted or Web-based version of Excel yet, but third parties already provide the online sharing capability that Google is touting with its Spreadsheets, said Microsoft.

News.com Poll

Would you switch from Microsoft Excel to Google Spreadsheets?

No: Excel and Office work just fine for me
Yes: Office is too pricey and complex
Maybe: I?m looking for alternatives to Office



View results

"This is just an imitation of functionality that many other vendors already deliver, such as SimDesk, Wikicalc, and Salesforce.com," Alan Yates, general manager of Microsoft's information product-management group, said in an e-mail. "The reality is, customers are more demanding...about what they expect from their spreadsheet programs, and more than 400 million people around the world have chosen Microsoft Office because they benefit from our focus on helping them be more productive."

Helm, of Directions on Microsoft, agreed. "Google Spreadsheets is most plausibly an adjunct to Excel," he said. "If you have a spreadsheet you need to share, a service like this might make sense."

Google Spreadsheets will allow people to import Excel and other spreadsheet-type documents and export data to them, just like Intuit's QuickBase structured-data platform does. Meanwhile, Intuit will probably enable import and export compatibility with Google Spreadsheets, said Jana Eggers, general manager of Intuit's QuickBase division.

Google's next step?
Google has declined to lay out a full picture of its hosted productivity application strategy, and a Google representative said the company was not ready to discuss its plans for Writely and its strategy behind Google Spreadsheets. "Google Spreadsheets is not part of a suite of hosted productivity apps," the representative wrote in an e-mail. "Rather, it is a limited test that launched on Google Labs."

Many observers expect Google to use these applications to appeal to business customers, as Microsoft has done with Windows and Office.

Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Marianne Wolk said Google appears close to offering small businesses a suite for managing and storing files online. But the company still has to build its credibility with enterprise customers, analysts said.

See more CNET content tagged:
spreadsheet, Writely, Google Inc., enterprise, Microsoft Office

16 comments

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Add your comment
Look for the Google Office Appliance (GOA) someday soon...
Collaborative workbooks are far more critical to businesses than the analysts assert. I wouldn't be surprised to see higher uptake of Google Spreadsheets than anyone anticipated.

For those folks who don't want proprietary content transiting their firewall, look for a Google Office Appliance someday.

p.s., I predicted the Google Office Appliance in December of '05:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2005/12/firefox-extensions-and-end-of-windows.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2005/12/firefox-extensions-and-end-of-windows.html</a>
Posted by directorblue (148 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I predict Google will go out of business if they treat us like dirt
If Google keeps ignoring its 98% source of revenues, which is us small businesses
that buy pay-per-click Ads on Google, if they keep treating us like dirt, I predict that they will go out of business. Because we will seek and find alternative sources of PPC advertising to Google.
After all they can only treat their customers like dirt if they had a monopoly on search engine as for examples air lines have on air travel. I mean it is not like we can go to a competing airline that will give us business seats at half the price
of coach seats, or coach seats that are not tiny baby size.
But thanx God when it comes to search engine PPC Advertising we have, or are getting, some new choices. Some really different choices. For example we are switching most of our PPC advertising dollars to this new search engine called Anoox which is Not-for-Profit and totally Open.
Posted by kathy_torez (26 comments )
Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by kathy_torez (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Previous poster either works for anoox or got fired from Google
You completely lack credibility. stop filing your stupid posts.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft isn't going to lose too many customers
Microsoft isn't going to lose too many customers. Most Office buyers are businesses who need real programs and not just a third-rate spreadsheet. People who would use Google's office software would never pay for it anyway. Other people ALREADY BOUGHT Office so why would they switch now?
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What more?
Does this mean Google will be coming up with a office suite soon???
Posted by zxocuteboy (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looks interesting for collaboration
Well, I've been trying Google's spreadsheet program, and it seems pretty good. It's not as full-featured as Excel, but the collaboration features are quite nice. I can see using it when I want to edit a sheet as a group; seems far better than email exchanges or clustering around a screen. I can see using Google's emerging suite alongside Office for collaboration and working on essential files from the road. Interesting times.
Posted by ablocker (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
are we all crazy
come on! who in there right mind would switch to this 100% No business user will use this to do any real work. It is for home users and most home users have a friend of a friends copy of office anyway and as MS start craking down on that they will just switch to OpenOffice.org. Come one MS have nothing to worry about from this and anyone who thinks so is just crazy and trying to make more of this than it should be, a nice toy.
Posted by damiandennison (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They're not crazy. Just Stupid Kids With NO Brains.
They obviously don't use spreadsheets. They have no clue what-so-ever about OpenOffice. Actually, they just have no clue. Butt they post a lot of "expert" rehash of meaningless pass articles and screenshots.

To these wanna-be's, they're experts in spreading ****, so spreadsh!t is a topic they're well versed in.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Link Flag
What more?
Does this mean Google will be coming up with a office suite soon???
Posted by zxocuteboy (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Choice is Obvious
Which one do you prefer: 1) a spreadsheet application that has evolved for more than 20 years, to which "web-awareness" is added (or will be soon); or 2) a very rudimentary spreadsheet web-service?

Besides, how many people is actually a spreadsheet newbie that NEEDS online sharing and collaborative capabilities?
Posted by dysonl (151 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which do I prefer? The free one, if it works.
Microsoft spokesperson Heather Gillissen told internetnews.com,
".. [Google Spreadsheets] .. [is] like watching a time machine
from 10 years ago."

If that means that Google Spreadsheet is comparible to Excel 97,
then, IMO, Google has the makings of a winner. We have
hundred of copies of MS Office in use (O97, 2000, XP, 2003) and
not one of our users has needed any feature not included in
Excel 97.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.internetnews.com/xSP/article.php/3611576" target="_newWindow">http://www.internetnews.com/xSP/article.php/3611576</a>
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Poll is Surprising!
Either there's a lot of Excel/MSFT haters out there or...there's a lot of Excel/MSFT haters out there!
Posted by rayted32-191126880979139043961 (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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