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.

139 thoughts on “Google announces more sleepless nights ahead for MSFT product managers

  1. Pingback: Anonymous
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. “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!

  23. “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!

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