Google announces more sleepless nights ahead for MSFT product managers

Ahh, Google announces a spreadsheet service and the bloggers go nuts.

This is a good thing in my book.

Huh?

It's a good thing because of my philosophy. I want better software. Competition brings better software. It gets product managers to worry about customers. It causes discussions of features that were long-ago decided on.

You're watching two massively different ideas about how computers should be used battling it out right on the world's economic stage.

On one hand you have the old standard Office that says "load locally and use local resources."

On the other hand you have the new, fresh and clean, Google Office that says "load on the server and use a thin client, er browser."

I know which one I'm betting on. Why? Perspective. Even with my always-on-$80-a-month Verizon card getting to Network resources is still far slower than pulling them off of the hard drive. And, that'll remain true for a long time. Also, the Web browser simply doesn't have the API support to do really rich stuff.

Which predicts where Google and Microsoft will really battle it out: in the middleware.

Ahh, middleware 2.0 wars coming soon to a browser near you. Why? Cause as Google gets more people to try its spreadsheets more people will ask for more features. If they don't get those features the PR will turn back toward Microsoft's approach (since our Office has a lot more features than Google's offerings do). There will be pressure on at Google to add features but DHTML (er, Ajax) will simply run out of gas. So, you'll start seeing middleware coming down. (Runtimes like .NET, Flash, Java, and WPF, are what I'm thinking about — I'd bet that Google is working on a browser-runtime of its own that'll add a lot of local functionality to Web clients).

On the other hand, we're going to feel pressure to add online functionality to our Office suites. You're already seeing us respond to that pressure (Sharepoint added RSS, Blogging, and Wiki's in its next incarnations).

All this is great for customers because they'll have a lot more choices again. I agree with Don Dodge that right now there's a clear winner in this battle, but I'm not cocky enough to believe that Google won't figure this out long term. There are too many smart people over there for us to not take this threat seriously.

That said, I finally have switched to Windows Vista and Office 2007 on my main working machines and, wow, is Office 2007 getting underhyped. If I was a Microsoft product manager over on Office I'd send every blogger a free copy and say "please compare to Google Office." I'd love to see the blog hype if we did that.

Update: Dan Farber sees the two approaches as complimentary, not competitive. That's an interesting way to look at it too. Joe Wilcox is worried that Microsoft will get distracted by Google. Oh, I don't think we have to worry about that too much. I worry a lot more that both of our companies are missing the small things. Believe me, if the CTO of General Motors wants a feature in Excel, he or she will probably get it. Google can't distract us THAT much. But, what things are we missing? What are the opportunities that are bubbling up that we don't see?

Update 2: Vadivel Mohanakrishnan reminded me that there have been online spreadsheets for quite some time. Zohosheet has one, for instance. The thing is, I'm very unlikely to give even a big company my corporate data, but far far far less likely to give a small company that stuff. Why? What happens if they go out of business? That shows the market forces that'll bring most Web 2.0 apps into one of the big three companies.

Comments

  1. I’m not convinced that Google will provide any competition to Microsoft with Writely and Spreadsheets, but I am convinced that Microsoft will waste thousands of man hours trying to counter something that will not impact the Office bottom line (any more than YAOV – Yet Another Office Version) will.

    And I hope that, having been through Middleware 1.0 (servicemark? anyone?), the guys in charge will be too wise to go through it again – it is a pity that takeup of ClickOnce and JNLP (Java version) doesn’t seem to have been that great, a much better compromise. The last thing anyone needs is to have to go through the Applet,ActiveX,TCL plugin (remember that?), Flash pain again.

    Lets see if WPF/E gets any more traction than something like laszlo (http://www.laszlosystems.com/) before we claim that MiddleWare 2.0 is just around the corner.

  2. I’m not convinced that Google will provide any competition to Microsoft with Writely and Spreadsheets, but I am convinced that Microsoft will waste thousands of man hours trying to counter something that will not impact the Office bottom line (any more than YAOV – Yet Another Office Version) will.

    And I hope that, having been through Middleware 1.0 (servicemark? anyone?), the guys in charge will be too wise to go through it again – it is a pity that takeup of ClickOnce and JNLP (Java version) doesn’t seem to have been that great, a much better compromise. The last thing anyone needs is to have to go through the Applet,ActiveX,TCL plugin (remember that?), Flash pain again.

    Lets see if WPF/E gets any more traction than something like laszlo (http://www.laszlosystems.com/) before we claim that MiddleWare 2.0 is just around the corner.

  3. Ah, Scoble, you’re betting against Windows Live? The massive new initiative headed by the only compelling executive remaining in your company simply so you can say that the web is not a good platform because a rival is better at it than you?

  4. Ah, Scoble, you’re betting against Windows Live? The massive new initiative headed by the only compelling executive remaining in your company simply so you can say that the web is not a good platform because a rival is better at it than you?

  5. “Goebbels: no”

    Yes, you are. You are either saying the web is not a preferred platform to the desktop and/or Windows Live is years away from being compelling. And yet… your company is floundering on so many levels it was the last and most significant announcement your company made. Of course, your company screams about everything and Live has hardly delivered anything.

  6. “Goebbels: no”

    Yes, you are. You are either saying the web is not a preferred platform to the desktop and/or Windows Live is years away from being compelling. And yet… your company is floundering on so many levels it was the last and most significant announcement your company made. Of course, your company screams about everything and Live has hardly delivered anything.

  7. Goebbels: fair enough. I haven’t been screaming about Live.com, so don’t know where you are seeing all this hype that you’re telling us exists.

  8. Goebbels: fair enough. I haven’t been screaming about Live.com, so don’t know where you are seeing all this hype that you’re telling us exists.

  9. Err… its sort of the 80/20 scenario here, except its probably closer to 97/3 in the context of spreadsheets – i.e.: 97% of people use 3% of the features of Excel. GSheet targets that demographic – the Little League managers who don’t want/need or can’t afford a full-on localized version.

    IMHO Google’s battle is against perceptions – i.e.: the perception that a web tool is a stripped down, neutered version of desktop app. Which, of course, it is – but to the 97%, that won’t matter – but they need to be shown that this is the case.

    Also, consider that GSheets offers less effort-of-conversion than say, OpenOffice – i.e.: I’m more likely to try GSheets online, where effort is restricted to opening a webpage, than download, install, start, and use Open Office.

    With that in mind, I’d say the OpenOffice/Corel/SecondTeirProductivitySuite players are going to get dinged first. Give the hosted app meme time to spread, and MS will see the At-Home-User demographic eroded too.

    Just my $0.02! Looking forward to what MS volleys back with…

  10. Err… its sort of the 80/20 scenario here, except its probably closer to 97/3 in the context of spreadsheets – i.e.: 97% of people use 3% of the features of Excel. GSheet targets that demographic – the Little League managers who don’t want/need or can’t afford a full-on localized version.

    IMHO Google’s battle is against perceptions – i.e.: the perception that a web tool is a stripped down, neutered version of desktop app. Which, of course, it is – but to the 97%, that won’t matter – but they need to be shown that this is the case.

    Also, consider that GSheets offers less effort-of-conversion than say, OpenOffice – i.e.: I’m more likely to try GSheets online, where effort is restricted to opening a webpage, than download, install, start, and use Open Office.

    With that in mind, I’d say the OpenOffice/Corel/SecondTeirProductivitySuite players are going to get dinged first. Give the hosted app meme time to spread, and MS will see the At-Home-User demographic eroded too.

    Just my $0.02! Looking forward to what MS volleys back with…

  11. you are so imparcial…..

    this spreadsheet is the start of a new era…..of course it’s not going to beat office 2007 anytime soon…you guys have been at it for over a decades and it still s**ks…..

    i’ve tried the ’07 and it’s a good start, nice gui and all but come on…..make it easier to collaborate,….and cheaper….

    that’s just my two cents…

  12. you are so imparcial…..

    this spreadsheet is the start of a new era…..of course it’s not going to beat office 2007 anytime soon…you guys have been at it for over a decades and it still s**ks…..

    i’ve tried the ’07 and it’s a good start, nice gui and all but come on…..make it easier to collaborate,….and cheaper….

    that’s just my two cents…

  13. Rod: that, of course is true! (Although with Office 2007 I think the percentage of features used will double).

    The real problem when designing features is that everyone uses a different 3%.

    When I talk to the product designers over in Office they know approximately how many users use each feature. In even the least-used-case that’s hundreds of thousands of people. This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have never gained marketshare.

  14. I can’t help but wonder if the “long tail” is relevant here.

    When I first heard the idea, years ago, that we might be doing all our work “on the web” and our computers would basically be terminals, I thought that was absurd. I certainly would want all my work right here on my own hard drive.

    Then a few crashed. Again. And again.

    Now, big business will probably continue to use their own software and keep everything local — as might anyone who works with confidential information.

    But most of us are on the “tail” — we may do a lot of computing, but it’s actually less scary to trust it to Google’s servers than our own little desktops and haphazard backup practices. We are online all the time, but not so overwhelmed as you, so a bit slower is OK. And we want that quick connection with friends and family — documents, photos, get-together plans.

    I think Google is winning the tail.

  15. Rod: that, of course is true! (Although with Office 2007 I think the percentage of features used will double).

    The real problem when designing features is that everyone uses a different 3%.

    When I talk to the product designers over in Office they know approximately how many users use each feature. In even the least-used-case that’s hundreds of thousands of people. This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have typically lost marketshare.

  16. Rod: that, of course is true! (Although with Office 2007 I think the percentage of features used will double).

    The real problem when designing features is that everyone uses a different 3%.

    When I talk to the product designers over in Office they know approximately how many users use each feature. In even the least-used-case that’s hundreds of thousands of people. This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have never gained marketshare.

  17. I can’t help but wonder if the “long tail” is relevant here.

    When I first heard the idea, years ago, that we might be doing all our work “on the web” and our computers would basically be terminals, I thought that was absurd. I certainly would want all my work right here on my own hard drive.

    Then a few crashed. Again. And again.

    Now, big business will probably continue to use their own software and keep everything local — as might anyone who works with confidential information.

    But most of us are on the “tail” — we may do a lot of computing, but it’s actually less scary to trust it to Google’s servers than our own little desktops and haphazard backup practices. We are online all the time, but not so overwhelmed as you, so a bit slower is OK. And we want that quick connection with friends and family — documents, photos, get-together plans.

    I think Google is winning the tail.

  18. Rod: that, of course is true! (Although with Office 2007 I think the percentage of features used will double).

    The real problem when designing features is that everyone uses a different 3%.

    When I talk to the product designers over in Office they know approximately how many users use each feature. In even the least-used-case that’s hundreds of thousands of people. This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have typically lost marketshare.

  19. SB: good point. But, then, the trick for us is to make it easy to backup files into the Internet cloud, or, even make that transparently happen. Keep in mind that most enterprise accounts already have Sharepoint servers where all Office files get stored anyway (and I store all my files in Outlook, which gets replicated automatically to a server as well).

    Also, I've learned that the Internet sometimes goes away (like everytime I'm on a plane) so keeping files locally is vitally important to most businesspeople who can't rely on the Internet for their vital data.

  20. SB: good point. But, then, the trick for us is to make it easy to backup files into the Internet cloud, or, even make that transparently happen. Keep in mind that most enterprise accounts already have Sharepoint servers where all Office files get stored anyway (and I store all my files in Outlook, which gets replicated automatically to a server as well).

    Also, I've learned that the Internet sometimes goes away (like everytime I'm on a plane) so keeping files locally is vitally important to most businesspeople who can't rely on the Internet for their vital data.

  21. I really don’t want all apps to become web-apps. If that happens, we’ll be cheating ourselves out of a lot of functionality, richness, usability, etc. Anyway, look for Microsoft to make a web-version of Works, loaded with ads. *bleh*

    Office 2007 blows away all current office suites, and moreover, makes web-apps look like mere toys. lol

  22. I really don’t want all apps to become web-apps. If that happens, we’ll be cheating ourselves out of a lot of functionality, richness, usability, etc. Anyway, look for Microsoft to make a web-version of Works, loaded with ads. *bleh*

    Office 2007 blows away all current office suites, and moreover, makes web-apps look like mere toys. lol

  23. “I haven’t been screaming about Live.com, so don’t know where you are seeing all this hype that you’re telling us exists.”

    You’re so high off the smell of your own crap that you think that you are the only source of hype?

    Sorry, Scoble, in this case I’m referring to major platform announcements by your company… and in the last 2 years Live (or the theoretical push to web-based services which I do not truly see occuring) would be the biggest. Anything else has fallen far short of the hype.

    And, yes, I know you aren’t hyping it because you are at least smart enough to not hype something so underbaked… and overbaked (at the same time). Unfortunately, you are still foolish enough to criticize Google based on the flawed criteria that Microsoft applies to itself.

  24. “I haven’t been screaming about Live.com, so don’t know where you are seeing all this hype that you’re telling us exists.”

    You’re so high off the smell of your own crap that you think that you are the only source of hype?

    Sorry, Scoble, in this case I’m referring to major platform announcements by your company… and in the last 2 years Live (or the theoretical push to web-based services which I do not truly see occuring) would be the biggest. Anything else has fallen far short of the hype.

    And, yes, I know you aren’t hyping it because you are at least smart enough to not hype something so underbaked… and overbaked (at the same time). Unfortunately, you are still foolish enough to criticize Google based on the flawed criteria that Microsoft applies to itself.

  25. “Keep in mind that most enterprise accounts already have Sharepoint servers where all Office files get stored anyway (and I store all my files in Outlook, which gets replicated automatically to a server as well).”

    Strange, every enterprise I enter ythat has Sharepoint think it’s an overhyped piece of crap that is poorly implemented so no one uses it… and other in-house built intranets or traditional software solutions are used to far greater benefit than Sharepoint. If I was a Microsoft shill, I would never, ever use Sharepoint as an example of the right direction.

  26. “Keep in mind that most enterprise accounts already have Sharepoint servers where all Office files get stored anyway (and I store all my files in Outlook, which gets replicated automatically to a server as well).”

    Strange, every enterprise I enter ythat has Sharepoint think it’s an overhyped piece of crap that is poorly implemented so no one uses it… and other in-house built intranets or traditional software solutions are used to far greater benefit than Sharepoint. If I was a Microsoft shill, I would never, ever use Sharepoint as an example of the right direction.

  27. “Joe Wilcox is worried that Microsoft will get distracted by Google. Oh, I don’t think we have to worry about that too much.”

    You’re kidding, right? Your company is the most profoundly distracted company around! It’s easier to distract Microsoft than it is to distract a newborn with a piece of tinfoil. Well, I guess that’s why you don’t have to worry about it… it’s already true.

  28. “Joe Wilcox is worried that Microsoft will get distracted by Google. Oh, I don’t think we have to worry about that too much.”

    You’re kidding, right? Your company is the most profoundly distracted company around! It’s easier to distract Microsoft than it is to distract a newborn with a piece of tinfoil. Well, I guess that’s why you don’t have to worry about it… it’s already true.

  29. Forget about features, Robert, and pay close attention to collaboration.

    The ability for multiple people at multiple locations to work on the same document at the same time (without having to install and maintain custom software at all endpoints) will have a huge effect on productivity in the business world.

    Right now, business people often spend days e-mailing documents back and forth, when they could solve a problem with 15 minutes of live collaboration.

  30. Forget about features, Robert, and pay close attention to collaboration.

    The ability for multiple people at multiple locations to work on the same document at the same time (without having to install and maintain custom software at all endpoints) will have a huge effect on productivity in the business world.

    Right now, business people often spend days e-mailing documents back and forth, when they could solve a problem with 15 minutes of live collaboration.

  31. All you can do it sit back and admire the brand equity Google has, and just how far it gets them. Open Office has been challenging Microsoft Office for years, and some would say it’s a more credible challenger than Google, yet we hardly hear anything about it these days.

  32. All you can do it sit back and admire the brand equity Google has, and just how far it gets them. Open Office has been challenging Microsoft Office for years, and some would say it’s a more credible challenger than Google, yet we hardly hear anything about it these days.

  33. I think the key difference here is ‘Collaboration’.
    That key feature (One that microsoft failed to deliver for years whilst in its internet denial phase) is what makes what google is doing so different from a me to Excel copy. A very large number of spreadsheet users do not use it for finance and higher order functions. They use it to produce simple lists and cards etc.. Often these are shared amongst others ( think local league tables, memebership lists, org charts, phone lists etc..). Thishas historically been difficult with excel requiring emailing of files and then merging changes, beyond the scope of many. With the collaborative spreadsheet this just happens. Add the ability to chat and interact whilst doing it and you have the single biggest development the spreadsheet has received in decades. This does to the spreadsheet concept what a blog did for word processing. Thats the innovation here, not actually Google’s by the way, preceded by NumSum, WikiCalc,IRows.. etc (I feel sorry for those guys).

    regards
    Al

  34. I think the key difference here is ‘Collaboration’.
    That key feature (One that microsoft failed to deliver for years whilst in its internet denial phase) is what makes what google is doing so different from a me to Excel copy. A very large number of spreadsheet users do not use it for finance and higher order functions. They use it to produce simple lists and cards etc.. Often these are shared amongst others ( think local league tables, memebership lists, org charts, phone lists etc..). Thishas historically been difficult with excel requiring emailing of files and then merging changes, beyond the scope of many. With the collaborative spreadsheet this just happens. Add the ability to chat and interact whilst doing it and you have the single biggest development the spreadsheet has received in decades. This does to the spreadsheet concept what a blog did for word processing. Thats the innovation here, not actually Google’s by the way, preceded by NumSum, WikiCalc,IRows.. etc (I feel sorry for those guys).

    regards
    Al

  35. +1 for Al.

    As always, Microsoft overlooks deployment, and does not see that this product can scale to release vertical market add-ons (healthcare, finance, …) to users in a very short time. All of that comes without installing anything on the client, zero footprint.

    Can you remind me the roll-out cycle of Excel? 4 years, something like that, right?

    This product was not written from scratch in the last few months. It already has most of Excel’s core engine on the back-end.

    Microsoft’s biggest mistake so far is deployment. Unsurprisingly however, that’s with the same mistake that Microsoft decided .NET was not worth installing on XP boxes, which is actually a big limitation to today’s .NET client deployments.

    Megacorps are hard to steer…and Google is making it blatantly obvious, even for the blinds.

  36. +1 for Al.

    As always, Microsoft overlooks deployment, and does not see that this product can scale to release vertical market add-ons (healthcare, finance, …) to users in a very short time. All of that comes without installing anything on the client, zero footprint.

    Can you remind me the roll-out cycle of Excel? 4 years, something like that, right?

    This product was not written from scratch in the last few months. It already has most of Excel’s core engine on the back-end.

    Microsoft’s biggest mistake so far is deployment. Unsurprisingly however, that’s with the same mistake that Microsoft decided .NET was not worth installing on XP boxes, which is actually a big limitation to today’s .NET client deployments.

    Megacorps are hard to steer…and Google is making it blatantly obvious, even for the blinds.

  37. You know, this smart client thing might just take off…

    Seriously, the lines are getting pretty blurry on the UI side. Instead of only two options (browser-based or local forms), we’ve now got a bunch. Simple browser, AJAX, plug-ins, forms over the web, plus various combinations of those. And WPF/+-e fills in some more holes on the spectrum.

    I think Google has a pretty good chance at making an impact – if they get on some bandwagon that goes beyond DHTML. Heck, if I were a strategist in Google, I’d be looking hard at what WPF/e could do for me, or even what kinds of apps might be better suited as full smart client (like Google Earth!).

    But as Robert says, that competition leads to nice things for us all.

  38. You know, this smart client thing might just take off…

    Seriously, the lines are getting pretty blurry on the UI side. Instead of only two options (browser-based or local forms), we’ve now got a bunch. Simple browser, AJAX, plug-ins, forms over the web, plus various combinations of those. And WPF/+-e fills in some more holes on the spectrum.

    I think Google has a pretty good chance at making an impact – if they get on some bandwagon that goes beyond DHTML. Heck, if I were a strategist in Google, I’d be looking hard at what WPF/e could do for me, or even what kinds of apps might be better suited as full smart client (like Google Earth!).

    But as Robert says, that competition leads to nice things for us all.

  39. I’ll never write a paper online with refresh and close/quit still active without a dialogue box to confirm it…I lost many posts due to that.

  40. I’ll never write a paper online with refresh and close/quit still active without a dialogue box to confirm it…I lost many posts due to that.

  41. Robert – in regards to #9 – agreed! However – plot the users of each individual feature in the product’s feature set as circles in a venn (sp?) diagram. Beyond core functionality, I’d hypothesize, based on purely anecdotal evidence, that the overlaps would be big, and clustered – that is to say, its not everyone uses a different 3%, but rather everone uses the same 3% core functionality, and a relatively limited number of groups use similar additional subsets of the whole functionality (the overlap clusters).

    You should suggest to the product group that they cross index their usage stats against the SIC code that each is user fits into:
    http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sic_manual.html

    Then, determine the average number of features or feature-groups that a given SIC code travels across. This would yeild a feature-usage-concentration-by-industry metric.

    My hypothesis would be that concentration would be high – i.e.: there’s a finite # of groups using feature groups for a relatively limited number of things.

    The marketing implication is that a well-executed intelligent segmentation strategy and feature set design could do some damage.

  42. Robert – in regards to #9 – agreed! However – plot the users of each individual feature in the product’s feature set as circles in a venn (sp?) diagram. Beyond core functionality, I’d hypothesize, based on purely anecdotal evidence, that the overlaps would be big, and clustered – that is to say, its not everyone uses a different 3%, but rather everone uses the same 3% core functionality, and a relatively limited number of groups use similar additional subsets of the whole functionality (the overlap clusters).

    You should suggest to the product group that they cross index their usage stats against the SIC code that each is user fits into:
    http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/sic_manual.html

    Then, determine the average number of features or feature-groups that a given SIC code travels across. This would yeild a feature-usage-concentration-by-industry metric.

    My hypothesis would be that concentration would be high – i.e.: there’s a finite # of groups using feature groups for a relatively limited number of things.

    The marketing implication is that a well-executed intelligent segmentation strategy and feature set design could do some damage.

  43. Umm, of course, SIC comparison would miss home users – they’d have to be a code of their own. And I don’t doubt that the Excel team has a very intelligent segmentation strategy of their own, as well as an understanding of usage patterns – I don’t mean to come off as a jerk talking down to anyone.

    I’m just big on segmentation!

  44. Umm, of course, SIC comparison would miss home users – they’d have to be a code of their own. And I don’t doubt that the Excel team has a very intelligent segmentation strategy of their own, as well as an understanding of usage patterns – I don’t mean to come off as a jerk talking down to anyone.

    I’m just big on segmentation!

  45. @22: That’s why I’d go for a XUL or XAML application. Client side framework used to run applications from the server.

    Something like that you get the best of both worlds: a single ‘app’ to run all of your client ‘apps’, but they all get served up from the internet (or, as I still think will be the intermediate answer, the intranet). That way, you have control over closing without saving and so on.

    FYI, XUL is the Mozilla framework: both the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird mail client are built on it. Yes, they’re client apps, but in theory, they could just as well been server side.

  46. @22: That’s why I’d go for a XUL or XAML application. Client side framework used to run applications from the server.

    Something like that you get the best of both worlds: a single ‘app’ to run all of your client ‘apps’, but they all get served up from the internet (or, as I still think will be the intermediate answer, the intranet). That way, you have control over closing without saving and so on.

    FYI, XUL is the Mozilla framework: both the Firefox browser and the Thunderbird mail client are built on it. Yes, they’re client apps, but in theory, they could just as well been server side.

  47. If I was a Microsoft shill, I would never, ever use Sharepoint as an example of the right direction.

    Amen. In my CIOish days, don’t think I ever encountered anyone happy with (or using to full potential) that mash-up slop of Sharepoint.

    I see deployment and rollouts as the big issue…but too early in this game. But Google as an apps company? Do be serious.

  48. If I was a Microsoft shill, I would never, ever use Sharepoint as an example of the right direction.

    Amen. In my CIOish days, don’t think I ever encountered anyone happy with (or using to full potential) that mash-up slop of Sharepoint.

    I see deployment and rollouts as the big issue…but too early in this game. But Google as an apps company? Do be serious.

  49. It amazes me that nobody sees the enterprise value of the Google Spreadsheet. I don’t meant at Google, but behind the firewall of a corporation. Microsoft has has to add security tools to ensure that you can turn off copy, save, and print on documents. The Google Spreadsheet behind your firewall offers the ability to collaborate, yet completely control the data.

    Companies would have the security and control of a pseudo-mainframe environment while employees seemed to have the flexibility of a PC environment.

  50. It amazes me that nobody sees the enterprise value of the Google Spreadsheet. I don’t meant at Google, but behind the firewall of a corporation. Microsoft has has to add security tools to ensure that you can turn off copy, save, and print on documents. The Google Spreadsheet behind your firewall offers the ability to collaborate, yet completely control the data.

    Companies would have the security and control of a pseudo-mainframe environment while employees seemed to have the flexibility of a PC environment.

  51. Online spreadsheet? You mean like the SharePoint Dataview on lists? Been there, done that for 3+ years already.

    And I’ll agree with the previous poster – I haven’t seen anyone using the full potential of SharePoint – there’s too much there! As far as happy – LOTS of people are happy with it. Are there things that need improvement? TONS of things need to be improved. Tons are improved with the 2007 version – then we’ll get used to that and have even more things that’ll need to be improved/added. And thus the march goes on.

  52. Online spreadsheet? You mean like the SharePoint Dataview on lists? Been there, done that for 3+ years already.

    And I’ll agree with the previous poster – I haven’t seen anyone using the full potential of SharePoint – there’s too much there! As far as happy – LOTS of people are happy with it. Are there things that need improvement? TONS of things need to be improved. Tons are improved with the 2007 version – then we’ll get used to that and have even more things that’ll need to be improved/added. And thus the march goes on.

  53. Robert,

    You’re right on the mark with Office 2007 – totally rocks. The major disruption is the new UI. Took me about 10 minutes to get used to it and now I don’t ever want to go back. Ship this product and every online Office product will look like it’s from the dark ages.

    Now if I could only get Vista to work (it’s running inside MS Virtual Machine but lacks the drivers for my Sony Viao)

    Peter

  54. One thing that always interests me in debates like this is that people often look at it as black and white. That one side is out to kill the other or that it will dominate it. Google Spreadsheet isn’t the same product as Excel but then it’s not trying to be. The offsite, online method isn’t going to appeal to all but then again neither does Excel with its local method. The competition is good and I’ll be using Google Spreadsheet for a few things here and there but I’ll also be using Office as well. There’s enough market for both and plenty of cross over in my opinion. As an aside to all those who say they don’t trust online apps I must have lost more articles from an unexpected quit than I have from a browser going down so stability shouldn’t be a deterrent.

  55. Robert,

    You’re right on the mark with Office 2007 – totally rocks. The major disruption is the new UI. Took me about 10 minutes to get used to it and now I don’t ever want to go back. Ship this product and every online Office product will look like it’s from the dark ages.

    Now if I could only get Vista to work (it’s running inside MS Virtual Machine but lacks the drivers for my Sony Viao)

    Peter

  56. One thing that always interests me in debates like this is that people often look at it as black and white. That one side is out to kill the other or that it will dominate it. Google Spreadsheet isn’t the same product as Excel but then it’s not trying to be. The offsite, online method isn’t going to appeal to all but then again neither does Excel with its local method. The competition is good and I’ll be using Google Spreadsheet for a few things here and there but I’ll also be using Office as well. There’s enough market for both and plenty of cross over in my opinion. As an aside to all those who say they don’t trust online apps I must have lost more articles from an unexpected quit than I have from a browser going down so stability shouldn’t be a deterrent.

  57. Well I am user of Microsoft products and have come to find out they have made what they percieved as a minor change to their software, namely Reporting Services SP1 has Removed the single click ‘Uncheck All” feature from the Multivalued select dropdown, this feature SOLD me and I SOLD others on this product because it was a great idea. Article here:
    http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/productfeedback/viewfeedback.aspx?feedbackid=f68f4903-5171-4fff-9d70-1b4342b03a35

    Now I have to tell my users if they want to uncheck the boxes they will have to Click 200X! WTF!

    After the pain I have experienced with ASP.NET 2.0 this week, Directory Services, LDAP, and now the best product SQL 2005, I am beginning to see why you Robert are trying so hard to make these program managers listen to the Customers. I wouldn’t complain so much but my Company has invested ALOT of money in Reporting Services.

    ALAS the only ting I could post over on MSDN was bout how I was gonna go TELL SCOBLE about this. Dang I feel like I am in Kindergarten!

  58. Well I am user of Microsoft products and have come to find out they have made what they percieved as a minor change to their software, namely Reporting Services SP1 has Removed the single click ‘Uncheck All” feature from the Multivalued select dropdown, this feature SOLD me and I SOLD others on this product because it was a great idea. Article here:
    http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/productfeedback/viewfeedback.aspx?feedbackid=f68f4903-5171-4fff-9d70-1b4342b03a35

    Now I have to tell my users if they want to uncheck the boxes they will have to Click 200X! WTF!

    After the pain I have experienced with ASP.NET 2.0 this week, Directory Services, LDAP, and now the best product SQL 2005, I am beginning to see why you Robert are trying so hard to make these program managers listen to the Customers. I wouldn’t complain so much but my Company has invested ALOT of money in Reporting Services.

    ALAS the only ting I could post over on MSDN was bout how I was gonna go TELL SCOBLE about this. Dang I feel like I am in Kindergarten!

  59. Look, the money from spreadsheets is in corporations. Accountants are the big users and oh, by the way, they control the budget. Entire IT budgets will be decimated before Finance let’s go of Excel. The real monopoly is not Office, but VBA macros. Once MS went that direction, dislodging Excel became nearly impossible. Too many companies rely on spreadsheets built by someone a long time, ago that just simply work. No one knows how they work, they just do and they are full of macros that won’t convert to Open Office and won’t convert to Google Spreadsheet. I spend most of my time in 3 apps, Outlook, Excel and our ERP system. We have 2 critical spreadsheet apps that survived a Sarbannes-Oxley audit and saved us thousand of dollars and manhours over buying specialized dedicated applications. The ROI is there for companies to buy Excel. Oh yeah, I don’t want our company’s budget, or my personal budget, sitting out on the web for Google to have an “accidental security breach” with. Nor do I want I ads served with my spreadsheet. Talk about some boring ads! I think that this was a poor place for Google to compete. They should have picked on PowerPoint. Everyone loves to hate PowerPoint.

  60. Look, the money from spreadsheets is in corporations. Accountants are the big users and oh, by the way, they control the budget. Entire IT budgets will be decimated before Finance let’s go of Excel. The real monopoly is not Office, but VBA macros. Once MS went that direction, dislodging Excel became nearly impossible. Too many companies rely on spreadsheets built by someone a long time, ago that just simply work. No one knows how they work, they just do and they are full of macros that won’t convert to Open Office and won’t convert to Google Spreadsheet. I spend most of my time in 3 apps, Outlook, Excel and our ERP system. We have 2 critical spreadsheet apps that survived a Sarbannes-Oxley audit and saved us thousand of dollars and manhours over buying specialized dedicated applications. The ROI is there for companies to buy Excel. Oh yeah, I don’t want our company’s budget, or my personal budget, sitting out on the web for Google to have an “accidental security breach” with. Nor do I want I ads served with my spreadsheet. Talk about some boring ads! I think that this was a poor place for Google to compete. They should have picked on PowerPoint. Everyone loves to hate PowerPoint.

  61. “It amazes me that nobody sees the enterprise value of the Google Spreadsheet. ”

    I think people are forgetting that whatever Google can do on their servers they can also do a pizza-box that they sell for your air conditioned computer room.

    Before the recent Google distractions Microsoft (Gates and Ballmer anyway) stated a desire to go head to head with IBM in the services business. They also have an obvious case of Apple and Sony envy wanting to keep their fingers in the media business. The only thing missing is chip-fab where the margins are WAY too low for their tastes. These are fallback positions though, in case the core business fails. Let me steer you in the right direction.

    First, how about a baby step… a Microsoft pizza-box server. Turn-key, ready to go, admined at a very high level of creating IDs and reseting passwords etc. THAT would be the proper response to Google, since that is probably where Google will be 5 years. Microsoft is still following the Amway business model pioneered by Novel, turning half a company’s human infrastructure into internal sales reps for your products. I think those days are coming to an end. As the number of people calling themselves computer professionals ramped up in the 80s the quality took a nosedive. Something had to give, and as with the telephone industry where (in the 40s) we all became our own switchboard operators, the entry-point to computing is now: plug it in, turn it on and go. With the exception of legitimate paranoia about proprietary data it should make no difference if the network is in your home, up the hall or a thousand miles away.

    I’ve had a couple small companies ask me about getting their own server and I ask them how many hundreds of $K are they willing to spend. Ironically no matter which path you take the gateway for small businesses is just as high as it was in IBM’s heyday, which is why their hardware business is still hanging in there. I think that is about to change though, and it will affect everyone, IBM, Microsoft, and even Intel and AMD, in ways not yet foreseen. The future is zero or near-zero admin costs. First company to get there wins the prize. Are you up for it Microsoft?

    I’m telling my small business clients to hang in there for another year, mailing their spreadsheets around, but I don’t think they will need to be doing that much longer. And no, they don’t use 3 percent of the features. Much lower I’d say. A grid that can do basic math is all they need.

  62. “It amazes me that nobody sees the enterprise value of the Google Spreadsheet. ”

    I think people are forgetting that whatever Google can do on their servers they can also do a pizza-box that they sell for your air conditioned computer room.

    Before the recent Google distractions Microsoft (Gates and Ballmer anyway) stated a desire to go head to head with IBM in the services business. They also have an obvious case of Apple and Sony envy wanting to keep their fingers in the media business. The only thing missing is chip-fab where the margins are WAY too low for their tastes. These are fallback positions though, in case the core business fails. Let me steer you in the right direction.

    First, how about a baby step… a Microsoft pizza-box server. Turn-key, ready to go, admined at a very high level of creating IDs and reseting passwords etc. THAT would be the proper response to Google, since that is probably where Google will be 5 years. Microsoft is still following the Amway business model pioneered by Novel, turning half a company’s human infrastructure into internal sales reps for your products. I think those days are coming to an end. As the number of people calling themselves computer professionals ramped up in the 80s the quality took a nosedive. Something had to give, and as with the telephone industry where (in the 40s) we all became our own switchboard operators, the entry-point to computing is now: plug it in, turn it on and go. With the exception of legitimate paranoia about proprietary data it should make no difference if the network is in your home, up the hall or a thousand miles away.

    I’ve had a couple small companies ask me about getting their own server and I ask them how many hundreds of $K are they willing to spend. Ironically no matter which path you take the gateway for small businesses is just as high as it was in IBM’s heyday, which is why their hardware business is still hanging in there. I think that is about to change though, and it will affect everyone, IBM, Microsoft, and even Intel and AMD, in ways not yet foreseen. The future is zero or near-zero admin costs. First company to get there wins the prize. Are you up for it Microsoft?

    I’m telling my small business clients to hang in there for another year, mailing their spreadsheets around, but I don’t think they will need to be doing that much longer. And no, they don’t use 3 percent of the features. Much lower I’d say. A grid that can do basic math is all they need.

  63. For the time being, online apps won’t replace software…but companies like Microsoft need to be ready for the day they do. I agree with Chris on that they are two different products. At the end of the day, the uses for your Excel sheet and Google Spreadsheet are going to be far different. However, times will change soon.

    On another thought, I am intrigued by the notion that Google would create a “browser” that would enhance apps. There have been rumors that they are playing with the idea of creating a new browser. If Google decides to go after this middleware idea, then MS needs to act smart.

  64. For the time being, online apps won’t replace software…but companies like Microsoft need to be ready for the day they do. I agree with Chris on that they are two different products. At the end of the day, the uses for your Excel sheet and Google Spreadsheet are going to be far different. However, times will change soon.

    On another thought, I am intrigued by the notion that Google would create a “browser” that would enhance apps. There have been rumors that they are playing with the idea of creating a new browser. If Google decides to go after this middleware idea, then MS needs to act smart.

  65. “This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have never gained marketshare.”

    And it explains why apps with fewer (but focused) feature sets develop communities and followings who love the product.

    Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous (which it became thanks to illegal tying practices).

    I’m not much of a spreadsheet user in general, but competition is surely a good thing. This would be even better with adoption of open document formats.

    Then MS could compete on quality (for a change).

  66. “This is why Office Suites that have fewer features have never gained marketshare.”

    And it explains why apps with fewer (but focused) feature sets develop communities and followings who love the product.

    Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous (which it became thanks to illegal tying practices).

    I’m not much of a spreadsheet user in general, but competition is surely a good thing. This would be even better with adoption of open document formats.

    Then MS could compete on quality (for a change).

  67. >Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous (which it became thanks to illegal tying practices).

    What illegal tying practices? I don’t remember any antitrust lawsuits about MS Office.

  68. >Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous (which it became thanks to illegal tying practices).

    What illegal tying practices? I don’t remember any antitrust lawsuits about MS Office.

  69. Scoble, if you compare MS Office to Google “Office” (to be?), you _have_ to compare them in terms of cost/value w.r.t. the end-user.

    What I mean is this: Google Spreadsheet might very well be very under-featured compared to MS Excel in MS Office 2007, but it’s also free. Collaboration is easy in GSpreadsheet in large part _because_ it’s free and easily accessible/adoptable. If you want to start comparing thin-client with thick-client, it would help if both sides offered the same value proposition. But the fact of the matter is that right now, MS Excel costs money (i.e., is software), while GSpreadsheet is media-ware (free for basic use but potentially monetizable attention).

    I think that if MSFT is really serious about the thick-client approach, then tie it in to web services (with enough hosted intelligence to be able to leverage it in the form of mediaware) and distribute the thick client for free _now_ and be ahead of the curve. If what you’re predicting is true, and Google does have to “thicken” the browser to have GSpreadsheet do the same neat things Excel already does, you can bet your bottom dollar that when they do, it’ll be free, and at that point the Excel featureset will already have become commodity.

    You can still charge for the Office _suite_ and perhaps offer some additional membership services on top of it, but stop distributing your software like software (using the old model) if you’re really trying to become a media company.

    Cheers,
    Bosko
    http://www.crowdedweb.com/

  70. Scoble, if you compare MS Office to Google “Office” (to be?), you _have_ to compare them in terms of cost/value w.r.t. the end-user.

    What I mean is this: Google Spreadsheet might very well be very under-featured compared to MS Excel in MS Office 2007, but it’s also free. Collaboration is easy in GSpreadsheet in large part _because_ it’s free and easily accessible/adoptable. If you want to start comparing thin-client with thick-client, it would help if both sides offered the same value proposition. But the fact of the matter is that right now, MS Excel costs money (i.e., is software), while GSpreadsheet is media-ware (free for basic use but potentially monetizable attention).

    I think that if MSFT is really serious about the thick-client approach, then tie it in to web services (with enough hosted intelligence to be able to leverage it in the form of mediaware) and distribute the thick client for free _now_ and be ahead of the curve. If what you’re predicting is true, and Google does have to “thicken” the browser to have GSpreadsheet do the same neat things Excel already does, you can bet your bottom dollar that when they do, it’ll be free, and at that point the Excel featureset will already have become commodity.

    You can still charge for the Office _suite_ and perhaps offer some additional membership services on top of it, but stop distributing your software like software (using the old model) if you’re really trying to become a media company.

    Cheers,
    Bosko
    http://www.crowdedweb.com/

  71. I just read through the remainder of the comments pertaining to the fact that the current spreadsheet market is largely dominated by enterprise. While a lot of these comments are spot on, they neglect to note that just because the current market appears to be dominated by enterprise does not imply that there is no other market for spreadsheets, just that the current model is not suitable for that other market.

    A mediaware model where basic spreadsheet functionality is free (and perhaps subsidized by relevant advertising, lead generation, or similar) _is_ more appealing than a relatively expensive and over-featured piece of software that does too much for non-enterprise spreadsheet users. And these users exist. They simply don’t dominate the _current_ spreadsheet market… for now anyway.

  72. I just read through the remainder of the comments pertaining to the fact that the current spreadsheet market is largely dominated by enterprise. While a lot of these comments are spot on, they neglect to note that just because the current market appears to be dominated by enterprise does not imply that there is no other market for spreadsheets, just that the current model is not suitable for that other market.

    A mediaware model where basic spreadsheet functionality is free (and perhaps subsidized by relevant advertising, lead generation, or similar) _is_ more appealing than a relatively expensive and over-featured piece of software that does too much for non-enterprise spreadsheet users. And these users exist. They simply don’t dominate the _current_ spreadsheet market… for now anyway.

  73. Greetings,
    I signed up the second I heard about it. Why? Because I can share spreadsheets with my wife, and we can update from any computer (her Mac laptop or her Windows desktop, my Mac laptop, my Linux and Windows desktops, my work Windows and Linux desktops, hell probably my cellphone!), and keep a mini-database online of the info we need, with some calculations thrown in for good measure.

    We just closed a mortgage. We could have kept a spreadsheet of all the approximate closing costs, etc., and constantly updated it as we found out specific values for each entry, so either of us could be in touch with the lender and we’d both be kept informed via the GSheet. We can use it to collaborate on shopping lists, even, and more.

    It’s the same reason we both signed up for Google Calendar, and immediately invited each other to join calendars. It’s all about the long tail, here.

    There isn’t a product made by Microsoft that supports the need that my wife and I have to share information. That’s partially because Microsoft doesn’t just believe in the thick client, it’s a religion. Even XmlHTTPRequest was a thickening of the client. It pains me to admit that it was necessary, but it really was. This is a world where more is less. Any of .NET, Flash, Java, and WPF are going to make things LESS accessible.

    I live in fear of the day that Microsoft successfully develops something that replaces Flash, because I know my wife and I won’t be able to use it on my Treo 650 (Palm) phone, my Linux box, my Mac laptops, Firefox, Opera, and probably any old Windows installs I have.

    No. Please, do not thicken the client any more than it needs to be. Any thickening should come in the form of simple standards from an independant party, implemented by all browsers. (I.e. WHAT/WG).

  74. Greetings,
    I signed up the second I heard about it. Why? Because I can share spreadsheets with my wife, and we can update from any computer (her Mac laptop or her Windows desktop, my Mac laptop, my Linux and Windows desktops, my work Windows and Linux desktops, hell probably my cellphone!), and keep a mini-database online of the info we need, with some calculations thrown in for good measure.

    We just closed a mortgage. We could have kept a spreadsheet of all the approximate closing costs, etc., and constantly updated it as we found out specific values for each entry, so either of us could be in touch with the lender and we’d both be kept informed via the GSheet. We can use it to collaborate on shopping lists, even, and more.

    It’s the same reason we both signed up for Google Calendar, and immediately invited each other to join calendars. It’s all about the long tail, here.

    There isn’t a product made by Microsoft that supports the need that my wife and I have to share information. That’s partially because Microsoft doesn’t just believe in the thick client, it’s a religion. Even XmlHTTPRequest was a thickening of the client. It pains me to admit that it was necessary, but it really was. This is a world where more is less. Any of .NET, Flash, Java, and WPF are going to make things LESS accessible.

    I live in fear of the day that Microsoft successfully develops something that replaces Flash, because I know my wife and I won’t be able to use it on my Treo 650 (Palm) phone, my Linux box, my Mac laptops, Firefox, Opera, and probably any old Windows installs I have.

    No. Please, do not thicken the client any more than it needs to be. Any thickening should come in the form of simple standards from an independant party, implemented by all browsers. (I.e. WHAT/WG).

  75. “Strange, every enterprise I enter ythat has Sharepoint think it’s an overhyped piece of crap that is poorly implemented so no one uses it … ”

    “Every enterprise”?

    We must be visiting different ones. I can give you a long list of Fortune 500s that are doing some very cool things with the SharePoint in Office 2003.

    Its true the first SharePoint (2001) was not an enterprise app, and many people think of that when they hear SharePoint. But it was re-written for Office 2003 and is very capable today, and widely used by millions of users.

  76. “Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous..”

    I don’t ‘love’ any software. Office is the de facto standard in that segment and it does it’s job quite well. We use spreadsheets quite often in my line of work – structural engineering – and while they may be relatively simple, they have all kinds of macros and functions embedded in them. If Google’s products can really import those XLS files and make them work flawlessly (there are times when OpenOffice can’t) then I’ll consider using it. However it only takes a couple of things to not work completely right and it will be rendered useless to me.

    Then of course there is the whole issue of online storage. First of all do you want all that data on someone else’s server? And this begs the question – as always with Google – what are they going to do with it (or how are they going to profit from it)?

    People who use spreadsheets to make simple lists are one thing, but businesses typically use them for financial purposes. This usually means data that is somewhat more sensitive than a grocery list. If you can convince companies to trust Google’s servers with that data I’d be impressed.

  77. “Strange, every enterprise I enter ythat has Sharepoint think it’s an overhyped piece of crap that is poorly implemented so no one uses it … ”

    “Every enterprise”?

    We must be visiting different ones. I can give you a long list of Fortune 500s that are doing some very cool things with the SharePoint in Office 2003.

    Its true the first SharePoint (2001) was not an enterprise app, and many people think of that when they hear SharePoint. But it was re-written for Office 2003 and is very capable today, and widely used by millions of users.

  78. “Nobody loves MS Office. They tolerate it because it is relatively ubiquitous..”

    I don’t ‘love’ any software. Office is the de facto standard in that segment and it does it’s job quite well. We use spreadsheets quite often in my line of work – structural engineering – and while they may be relatively simple, they have all kinds of macros and functions embedded in them. If Google’s products can really import those XLS files and make them work flawlessly (there are times when OpenOffice can’t) then I’ll consider using it. However it only takes a couple of things to not work completely right and it will be rendered useless to me.

    Then of course there is the whole issue of online storage. First of all do you want all that data on someone else’s server? And this begs the question – as always with Google – what are they going to do with it (or how are they going to profit from it)?

    People who use spreadsheets to make simple lists are one thing, but businesses typically use them for financial purposes. This usually means data that is somewhat more sensitive than a grocery list. If you can convince companies to trust Google’s servers with that data I’d be impressed.

  79. Robert,

    You may visit more enterprises, but I highly doubt you have the ability and skills to know what’s going on under the dog and pony show you’re getting, and the knowledge to know the difference between a product in wide use and one being used effectively.

    I guarantee that someone who IS a sysadmin with a clue can find out more in ten minutes than you will in ten hours, because they know what to look for and you don’t.

    I can tell you right now, that if you’re not an all -Windows shop, Sharepoint sucks to use.

  80. Robert,

    You may visit more enterprises, but I highly doubt you have the ability and skills to know what’s going on under the dog and pony show you’re getting, and the knowledge to know the difference between a product in wide use and one being used effectively.

    I guarantee that someone who IS a sysadmin with a clue can find out more in ten minutes than you will in ten hours, because they know what to look for and you don’t.

    I can tell you right now, that if you’re not an all -Windows shop, Sharepoint sucks to use.

  81. @45, and outside of total Windows shops or shops that are know MS shops (Boeing, Target…I rather doubt Amazon qualifies as an Sharepoint candidate) how many enterprises have you visted? Of those, how many IT admins have you actually talked to where they told you how much your software sucked, and why? Or were your visits merely to hock your book?

    Sure there’s a lot of licensed Sharepoint out there (one version comes with Windows, right?), but how WELL is it being used? How many enterprises on the scale of say…WalMart, GE, Boeing, Nestle, Shell, are using Sharepoint as there PRIMARY portal and teaming solution?

  82. @45, and outside of total Windows shops or shops that are know MS shops (Boeing, Target…I rather doubt Amazon qualifies as an Sharepoint candidate) how many enterprises have you visted? Of those, how many IT admins have you actually talked to where they told you how much your software sucked, and why? Or were your visits merely to hock your book?

    Sure there’s a lot of licensed Sharepoint out there (one version comes with Windows, right?), but how WELL is it being used? How many enterprises on the scale of say…WalMart, GE, Boeing, Nestle, Shell, are using Sharepoint as there PRIMARY portal and teaming solution?

  83. “If the CTO of GM wants a feature in Excel he’ll probably get it?”

    Are you completely certain that is true? Since when did MS get into the IBM game of building specific versions for their software for a specific customer? It would seem counterproductive for an off-the-shelf software company like Microsoft to design, code, check-in, test, beta, bug fix, test, regression test, bug fix, test, regression test… ship.. a feature for one specific customer, regardless of their size. I would think that said feature would have to appeal more broadly than just the CTO of GM for MS to consider adding it.

    But, given the quality bar you guys seem to set, maybe that’s not all that surprising.

  84. “If the CTO of GM wants a feature in Excel he’ll probably get it?”

    Are you completely certain that is true? Since when did MS get into the IBM game of building specific versions for their software for a specific customer? It would seem counterproductive for an off-the-shelf software company like Microsoft to design, code, check-in, test, beta, bug fix, test, regression test, bug fix, test, regression test… ship.. a feature for one specific customer, regardless of their size. I would think that said feature would have to appeal more broadly than just the CTO of GM for MS to consider adding it.

    But, given the quality bar you guys seem to set, maybe that’s not all that surprising.

  85. I agree. I think the best thing this does is put some more competition in the market for Microsoft to continually improve and evolve. Middleware may be an option, but I just don’t think it’s there yet, or will be soon. If the browsers and online items can’t agree on simple stuff like CSS standards, I don’t see a wide acceptance needed for middleware to gain enough ground for Google office apps to be much more than they are now.

  86. I agree. I think the best thing this does is put some more competition in the market for Microsoft to continually improve and evolve. Middleware may be an option, but I just don’t think it’s there yet, or will be soon. If the browsers and online items can’t agree on simple stuff like CSS standards, I don’t see a wide acceptance needed for middleware to gain enough ground for Google office apps to be much more than they are now.

  87. First time poster, long time lurker…

    Nice topic…I have relatively little experience in large corps (I loathe working for ‘the man’) so I can’t address the enterprise level discussion. But I have been thinking about google and ms for while…I think some very strategic elements of ms’s biz model are getting ready for ‘rude awaking’.

    Start with Outlook (all the ms ofc apps are overpowered for ‘joe user’) so the value of their vast array of features is discounted heavily in terms of real usability. Take the contact manager, it’s a mess to tweak it just a bit to make it ‘fit me’ (how I want the look and feel for how i use it) I’ve bought the books, hammered away and gave up. Most will not go this path, and (stated above) simply ‘accept it like it is’ and use it. The gmail fits well on it’s first rendition as it does attempt to be a all purpose (and overwhelming) contact mgmt program but do what a mail program needs to do, for the masses. Outlook completely fails on the spam front, I get 200 a day and have about 25% end up in my inbox…which I have to manage AND for which MS has not ‘smarts’ behind the scenes to recognize that v1agra is vlagra is v!aggra…it costs me time. I get 250 spams in gmail and deal with 3-5% and have noticed the filter begins to delete once it sees my pattern PLUS it measures this against other users so the cummulative intelligence provides a better filter. That works.

    Word…been a user of every version of this ms product since the beginning…advance features (linking, embedded spreadsheet ranges, etc) but the simple act of collaborating (with my IT guy who left for Israel today) says it all about writely. So I can’t embed my ssheet range today…I am highly confident it will happen because it appears the ‘middle ware’ components are there to facilitate the integration of these advanced features.

    Since my ‘invite’ arrived today on google spread sheet, I have no experience with it. however, as an ‘average joe’ who exploits excels features at a level higher than most people, this product is going to be hard for google to adapt at a level which would make it a competitive product beyond individuals (into the enterprise). But considering the ‘baseball coach’ comment, google’s spreadsheet will compete and win over users. Maybe they are aiming at a market beyond the 270million US residents? How sophisticated are those users? Exactly! It’ll gain market share.

    On the openoffice front, I ditched MS office about a year and half ago when I disconnected the linked symantec product (on purpose, to change security systems) and the whole thing broke. Spent a good part of two weeks on getting it all to work like I WANTED…no luck…and no more MS office on my system. deleted the entire suite…never looked back.

    The open office products are good. Yeah had to learn a few different keystokes thanks to the ms patent attns probably but no biggie. It’s a great suite. I have only found one bug which is embedding ssheets in docs that requires a work around but, again, for most users, it works. All openofc needs is some marketing dollars or zealots in the blogoshere and it will win market share too.

    From my perspective the assault google is making on office is something I would be paying close attn to if I was the ms-ofc prod mgr. These guys are for real and they are looking at the world differently. Their view is more aligned with the ‘open’ network we have than where ms’ formative roots lie – on the desk top, behind the firewall. If I was him, i would not be sleeping too much either because that wave of innovation is going to strike the beach (MS) hard.

    Even with S&L’s proclamations of ‘being good’ yada, yada, they will integrate their calendar, mail, spreadsheet, doc, etc so it works seamlessly; it’s a direct aim at MS Ofc, any other assumption is naive. Why on earth would they stop short of integration? Hell, I would go for it, the win is simply too big if they pull it off. very big.

    About security and data, it’s a hole in their program for sure but wow, ms and security in the same sentence is a stretch too! One not to be taken lightly and I don’t have an answer at this point for how they might resolve it. However, if fiber is being lit, servers are being installed at the rate some guess, then I contend the ‘downtime’ aspect of this arguement is slowly going away AND there will be a way for me to port my data either locally or ‘offline’. It could be as simple a solution as a ‘file save to local’ on a menu or a 5bucks per month ‘rent-a-space’ option…exactly like every other data warehouse does with a huge percentage of the online internet data that is flowing thru the pipes today.

    Hey, we do ccard biz, route sensitive docs,netc, across and thru these routers/servers now…how is that significantly different that what google is doing by default with their ‘online’ application approach…looks the same to me.

    My/Your/Our data is out there…where? exactly! Who knows…but we have adapted and integrated this into the main stream of our lives and busineses in the short timeline from lynx to opera (’93 to ’06).

    Who’d a thunk it!

    I enjoy your writings. Probably the most genuine(ly interesting) person i have read on the net. The week you shared about your mother was very heart felt. Sorry for you loss.

    Keep your brain cells churning and your keyboard hooked up…it’s always a good read here.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  88. First time poster, long time lurker…

    Nice topic…I have relatively little experience in large corps (I loathe working for ‘the man’) so I can’t address the enterprise level discussion. But I have been thinking about google and ms for while…I think some very strategic elements of ms’s biz model are getting ready for ‘rude awaking’.

    Start with Outlook (all the ms ofc apps are overpowered for ‘joe user’) so the value of their vast array of features is discounted heavily in terms of real usability. Take the contact manager, it’s a mess to tweak it just a bit to make it ‘fit me’ (how I want the look and feel for how i use it) I’ve bought the books, hammered away and gave up. Most will not go this path, and (stated above) simply ‘accept it like it is’ and use it. The gmail fits well on it’s first rendition as it does attempt to be a all purpose (and overwhelming) contact mgmt program but do what a mail program needs to do, for the masses. Outlook completely fails on the spam front, I get 200 a day and have about 25% end up in my inbox…which I have to manage AND for which MS has not ‘smarts’ behind the scenes to recognize that v1agra is vlagra is v!aggra…it costs me time. I get 250 spams in gmail and deal with 3-5% and have noticed the filter begins to delete once it sees my pattern PLUS it measures this against other users so the cummulative intelligence provides a better filter. That works.

    Word…been a user of every version of this ms product since the beginning…advance features (linking, embedded spreadsheet ranges, etc) but the simple act of collaborating (with my IT guy who left for Israel today) says it all about writely. So I can’t embed my ssheet range today…I am highly confident it will happen because it appears the ‘middle ware’ components are there to facilitate the integration of these advanced features.

    Since my ‘invite’ arrived today on google spread sheet, I have no experience with it. however, as an ‘average joe’ who exploits excels features at a level higher than most people, this product is going to be hard for google to adapt at a level which would make it a competitive product beyond individuals (into the enterprise). But considering the ‘baseball coach’ comment, google’s spreadsheet will compete and win over users. Maybe they are aiming at a market beyond the 270million US residents? How sophisticated are those users? Exactly! It’ll gain market share.

    On the openoffice front, I ditched MS office about a year and half ago when I disconnected the linked symantec product (on purpose, to change security systems) and the whole thing broke. Spent a good part of two weeks on getting it all to work like I WANTED…no luck…and no more MS office on my system. deleted the entire suite…never looked back.

    The open office products are good. Yeah had to learn a few different keystokes thanks to the ms patent attns probably but no biggie. It’s a great suite. I have only found one bug which is embedding ssheets in docs that requires a work around but, again, for most users, it works. All openofc needs is some marketing dollars or zealots in the blogoshere and it will win market share too.

    From my perspective the assault google is making on office is something I would be paying close attn to if I was the ms-ofc prod mgr. These guys are for real and they are looking at the world differently. Their view is more aligned with the ‘open’ network we have than where ms’ formative roots lie – on the desk top, behind the firewall. If I was him, i would not be sleeping too much either because that wave of innovation is going to strike the beach (MS) hard.

    Even with S&L’s proclamations of ‘being good’ yada, yada, they will integrate their calendar, mail, spreadsheet, doc, etc so it works seamlessly; it’s a direct aim at MS Ofc, any other assumption is naive. Why on earth would they stop short of integration? Hell, I would go for it, the win is simply too big if they pull it off. very big.

    About security and data, it’s a hole in their program for sure but wow, ms and security in the same sentence is a stretch too! One not to be taken lightly and I don’t have an answer at this point for how they might resolve it. However, if fiber is being lit, servers are being installed at the rate some guess, then I contend the ‘downtime’ aspect of this arguement is slowly going away AND there will be a way for me to port my data either locally or ‘offline’. It could be as simple a solution as a ‘file save to local’ on a menu or a 5bucks per month ‘rent-a-space’ option…exactly like every other data warehouse does with a huge percentage of the online internet data that is flowing thru the pipes today.

    Hey, we do ccard biz, route sensitive docs,netc, across and thru these routers/servers now…how is that significantly different that what google is doing by default with their ‘online’ application approach…looks the same to me.

    My/Your/Our data is out there…where? exactly! Who knows…but we have adapted and integrated this into the main stream of our lives and busineses in the short timeline from lynx to opera (’93 to ’06).

    Who’d a thunk it!

    I enjoy your writings. Probably the most genuine(ly interesting) person i have read on the net. The week you shared about your mother was very heart felt. Sorry for you loss.

    Keep your brain cells churning and your keyboard hooked up…it’s always a good read here.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  89. I’m a big fan of “load local” and web services haven’t really interested me, but reading about Google’s spreadsheet got me excited – because two or more people can work on the one sheet at a time. A limited sheet, sure, but a spreadsheet none the less. My producer and I could look at a schedule together; or perhaps a guest could place themselves in the schedule? I love the idea.

    And I know Excel with Office Live will probably have some similar features but so far I’ve been undersold. ;-)

    Philip

  90. I’m a big fan of “load local” and web services haven’t really interested me, but reading about Google’s spreadsheet got me excited – because two or more people can work on the one sheet at a time. A limited sheet, sure, but a spreadsheet none the less. My producer and I could look at a schedule together; or perhaps a guest could place themselves in the schedule? I love the idea.

    And I know Excel with Office Live will probably have some similar features but so far I’ve been undersold. ;-)

    Philip

  91. “You’re watching two massively different ideas about how computers should be used battling it out right on the world’s economic stage.

    On one hand you have the old standard Office that says “load locally and use local resources.””

    You are half right. It is a battle but it has nothing to do with how apps are deployed. Tech people care about thick client vs thin client. The real battle between MS and Google is which paradigm are users after more, tons of features or easy to use?

    MS has always sold new versions on look at all the new features we added! Google and the new wave of designy based web 2.0 apps are based on look at how pretty this is and how with a small feature set it’s straight forward to use!

  92. “You’re watching two massively different ideas about how computers should be used battling it out right on the world’s economic stage.

    On one hand you have the old standard Office that says “load locally and use local resources.””

    You are half right. It is a battle but it has nothing to do with how apps are deployed. Tech people care about thick client vs thin client. The real battle between MS and Google is which paradigm are users after more, tons of features or easy to use?

    MS has always sold new versions on look at all the new features we added! Google and the new wave of designy based web 2.0 apps are based on look at how pretty this is and how with a small feature set it’s straight forward to use!

  93. I just want to say, you have a very high quality of commenters here. I learn something when I follow the conversation, and I appreciate that.

  94. I just want to say, you have a very high quality of commenters here. I learn something when I follow the conversation, and I appreciate that.

  95. local/remote: we just need a bigger javascript-accessible file sandbox to store data locally in case the network is temporarily out

    security of your data: Google Office could easily encrypt our data on the browser side (javascript encryption of text data is fine), and Google would store our encrypted data

  96. local/remote: we just need a bigger javascript-accessible file sandbox to store data locally in case the network is temporarily out

    security of your data: Google Office could easily encrypt our data on the browser side (javascript encryption of text data is fine), and Google would store our encrypted data

  97. [...] June 7th, 2006 “The thing is, I’m very unlikely to give even a big company my corporate data, but far far far less likely to give a small company that stuff. Why? What happens if they go out of business? That shows the market forces that’ll bring most Web 2.0 apps into one of the big three companies,” says Scoble in a post on Google’s online spreadsheet application. [...]

  98. Well, I guess *putting data on the internt (i.e. online office)’ is a temporary issue. Companies were not too comfortable putting their crm/procurement data on the net too. But with time and effort, they are ready to part with their data on salesforce.com etc (ASPs).
    And the compelling reason for do is the lesser TCO of the software.
    The challenge for Microsoft is not Google. If MS Office’s prices aren’r reduced (I want better security, better control over MS products, but still I am not too willing to pay the *OH MY GOD* price that MS charges.
    If MS continues to do so, companies won’t mind shifting to Google.
    After all, the mandate for CIO is to lower the TCO (or get fired), and I dont see MS helping the CIO in any ways. (apart from security patches and the huge maintenance fee that they charge)
    Its not the product features, but its the cost/usage that will drive the decision to shift to Google etc..
    WOnder why you missed this point in your blog (esp being a product manager!)

    Thanks,
    Ashish
    Sr. Product Manager,
    http://sinha.wordpress.com

  99. Well, I guess *putting data on the internt (i.e. online office)’ is a temporary issue. Companies were not too comfortable putting their crm/procurement data on the net too. But with time and effort, they are ready to part with their data on salesforce.com etc (ASPs).
    And the compelling reason for do is the lesser TCO of the software.
    The challenge for Microsoft is not Google. If MS Office’s prices aren’r reduced (I want better security, better control over MS products, but still I am not too willing to pay the *OH MY GOD* price that MS charges.
    If MS continues to do so, companies won’t mind shifting to Google.
    After all, the mandate for CIO is to lower the TCO (or get fired), and I dont see MS helping the CIO in any ways. (apart from security patches and the huge maintenance fee that they charge)
    Its not the product features, but its the cost/usage that will drive the decision to shift to Google etc..
    WOnder why you missed this point in your blog (esp being a product manager!)

    Thanks,
    Ashish
    Sr. Product Manager,
    http://sinha.wordpress.com

  100. I’m happy about the competition as well. There are so many features in Excel now that most people just never use. I hope that the competition will push MS into focusing on simplicity.

    That said, I haven’t used the new version of Office yet or Vista. I posted on my blog about getting a copy and I think your idea of sending it out to bloggers is a good one. If there’s any way you can push this issue and get me a copy of Office and Vista I’d gladly blog my experience.

  101. I’m happy about the competition as well. There are so many features in Excel now that most people just never use. I hope that the competition will push MS into focusing on simplicity.

    That said, I haven’t used the new version of Office yet or Vista. I posted on my blog about getting a copy and I think your idea of sending it out to bloggers is a good one. If there’s any way you can push this issue and get me a copy of Office and Vista I’d gladly blog my experience.

  102. While I do agree with you about “MS Office vs. Google Spreadsheets,” there is one interesting thing that you didn’t mention: you can’t use Excel in Second Life.

  103. While I do agree with you about “MS Office vs. Google Spreadsheets,” there is one interesting thing that you didn’t mention: you can’t use Excel in Second Life.

  104. Thanks for mentioning Zoho Sheet. By way of background, Zoho is a division of AdventNet, a company that has been around 10 years now. Profitable, non-VC-funded, bubble-survivor – so I would say the data is pretty safe with us.

    Sridhar

  105. Thanks for mentioning Zoho Sheet. By way of background, Zoho is a division of AdventNet, a company that has been around 10 years now. Profitable, non-VC-funded, bubble-survivor – so I would say the data is pretty safe with us.

    Sridhar

  106. If memory serves, Microsoft predicted 5 or 6 years ago that online storage would become a norm in the internet world very soon. Yet, here they are trying to trump Google with their heavy, resource intensive (honestly, how much resources should it take to do half the stuff it does) office apps that don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Microsoft is becoming an old man oracle, predicting some things true, and others of thin air. I know, I sound like a Microsoft hater, I’m not. I just wish they’d think before speaking.

  107. If memory serves, Microsoft predicted 5 or 6 years ago that online storage would become a norm in the internet world very soon. Yet, here they are trying to trump Google with their heavy, resource intensive (honestly, how much resources should it take to do half the stuff it does) office apps that don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Microsoft is becoming an old man oracle, predicting some things true, and others of thin air. I know, I sound like a Microsoft hater, I’m not. I just wish they’d think before speaking.

  108. Binsurf: it’s totally untrue when you say that Office apps don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Completely untrue. I use Outlook every day and everything I do there is stored offline and online. So are all my docs, cause I have Sharepoint.

  109. Binsurf: it’s totally untrue when you say that Office apps don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Completely untrue. I use Outlook every day and everything I do there is stored offline and online. So are all my docs, cause I have Sharepoint.

  110. I see your point but I don’t think any corporate people want to use Google spreadsheet to run their business. They must stick to Microsoft Excel. But this online spreadsheet is very useful for personal use and it can be shared between family members and friends. You don’t need to send spreadsheet as attachments. I don’t think we want to get all those Excel features in online spreadsheet. Basic functionalities are good enough. I will be very happy to use these kinds of online tools from the big three companies.

  111. I see your point but I don’t think any corporate people want to use Google spreadsheet to run their business. They must stick to Microsoft Excel. But this online spreadsheet is very useful for personal use and it can be shared between family members and friends. You don’t need to send spreadsheet as attachments. I don’t think we want to get all those Excel features in online spreadsheet. Basic functionalities are good enough. I will be very happy to use these kinds of online tools from the big three companies.

  112. [...] I removed Robert Scoble from MSFT from my livebookmarks list (which includes: CNN, Rob Black, Digg, /., PlanetMozilla,  mozillaZine feedhouse, SFx, MDC Webwatch, Mozilla Dev news, John Lilly, Emmy Huang, IE blog, jwz, Steve Rubel, Om Malik, timbl, Yahoo Word of the Day, Bob Lord, and Michael Bauer w/ the last two latest editions) a long time ago.  But went to see what he was up to. Anyway, Rob was writing about Google Spreadsheet.  In his post he said: There will be pressure on at Google to add features but DHTML (er, Ajax) will simply run out of gas. So, you’ll start seeing middleware coming down. (Runtimes like .NET, Flash, Java, and WPF, are what I’m thinking about — I’d bet that Google is working on a browser-runtime of its own that’ll add a lot of local functionality to Web clients). [...]

  113. [...] A Google branded word processor based on Writely will surely come out soon. I don't know if these applications are the beginning of a challenge to Microsoft Office, at least not until the technologies and interfaces are more mature. However they demonstrate the capability of this imaginary eGoD platform. Such a development and hosting environment is bound to be disruptive in the desktop application ecosphere. Google may go after a big slice of the pie with Office, leaving the niche products to the small developers. Just like Microsoft did with their platform, Windows. [...]

  114. Robert, that’s online, I admit, however, it’s only with in the enterprise. I meant online storage in the global sense. The internet as a storage medium itself. I realize, a few years ago, we had an explosion of online “hard drives” that quickly lost energy. My understanding of Microsoft’s vision in this sense, was that all applications and storage (like Writely and GS) would be online (internet based) and that users could just buy software and use it remotely in that fashion. You’re talking about roaming profiles and remote storage on a server within the organization. That’s been done for years.

    Per below;
    __________________________________________________
    Comment by Robert Scoble — June 7, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    Binsurf: it’s totally untrue when you say that Office apps don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Completely untrue. I use Outlook every day and everything I do there is stored offline and online. So are all my docs, cause I have Sharepoint.

  115. Robert, that’s online, I admit, however, it’s only with in the enterprise. I meant online storage in the global sense. The internet as a storage medium itself. I realize, a few years ago, we had an explosion of online “hard drives” that quickly lost energy. My understanding of Microsoft’s vision in this sense, was that all applications and storage (like Writely and GS) would be online (internet based) and that users could just buy software and use it remotely in that fashion. You’re talking about roaming profiles and remote storage on a server within the organization. That’s been done for years.

    Per below;
    __________________________________________________
    Comment by Robert Scoble — June 7, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    Binsurf: it’s totally untrue when you say that Office apps don’t even remotely begin to store offline. Completely untrue. I use Outlook every day and everything I do there is stored offline and online. So are all my docs, cause I have Sharepoint.

  116. Google Introduces a Spreadsheet – Competition for Microsoft

    There’s plenty of press about this one, but I thought Scoble had a good quote: I want better software. Competition brings better software. It gets product managers to worry about customers. It causes discussions of features that were long-ago decide…

  117. [...] De geruchtenmolen komt ook gelijk op gang. Scoble zou vertrokken zijn vanwege de negatieve reactie op zijn kritiek op Microsoft producten binnen dat bedrijf. Zo prees hij een paar dagen geleden Google vanwege hun spreadsheet avontuur, maar zet hij ook vaker de concurrent in een positief daglicht. Robert zelf ontkent dit, en mij lijkt het ook redelijk onwaarschijnlijk. [...]