I have been using web applications, such as Google Apps, more recently and increasingly appreciate their versatility over traditional offline software, such as Microsoft’s dominating Office Suite. Why? Google’s platform has been expanding into other areas besides word processing. Now, from the Google Docs page, one can create spreadsheets, presentations, and store files which can be accessed anywhere for free. That means not having to port around a USB thumb/external drive, or emailing files to myself. And, if I still need the traditional full-featured functionality of Office, I can always save an Office-compatible version and work on it in other programs.
The other advantage of Google docs is that one can also store/share documents. During the recent snowstorm, I uploaded a video of the blizzard outside and shared it with the family. Depending on how much capability one is willing to share, any document can be created/edited/shared by anyone. Sometimes, it does require the other user to have a Google account (free), but in other cases, all one needs is a link and they can see the document just as you do.
Microsoft will get more involved in web-based word processing and other document creation webware in the future. It’s about as certain as taxes. As users grow more comfortable with using collaborative/online document creation programs, and Google’s features and functions grow, Microsoft will have to rethink its offline business model to remain viable. Consumers don’t want to keep paying hundreds of dollars for upgrades that they may never need, and then have to worry about compatibility with older programs. Google is specifically targeting businesses, too, with enterprise-quality software and services.
Don’t be surprised if we start to hear the death knell of Microsoft on your desktop at work one day. One of the most frustrating events in modern software history was when Microsoft changed its user interface to the “ribbon” for its 2007 Suite. I have grown more comfortable with it, but it took many people a long time to learn it. Since businesses want their employees to be productive, it’s a sure bet that the lost productivity caused in learning the new Microsoft software added substantially to the “true” upgrade cost.
The bottom-line is that for quick document creation and sharing, with capability that most can live with, Google apps is a sure bet to try.