It seems that not a week goes by without Google announcing some new
free software service that can be accessed from a web browser. It is
busily building a bunch of direct competitors to Microsoft in both the
web services and desktop space. GMail of course competes with rivals
Microsoft Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail in the free email market. It is,
however, on the desktop where Microsoft makes most of its money and it
is the desktop which Google threatens to make redundant for many users.
Google Calendar, which is still a beta project, may not be any better than Outlook’s calendar but, unlike Outlook, it is free. It is operating system agnostic. All you need is the web browser of your choice. That’s a frightening prospect for a Microsoft, not so much because some of its customer may not want to use Outlook for calendar functions anymore, but because of the implications for the product group where it makes the bulk of its money, Office.
Last month, Google acquired web-based word processor Writely from a tiny Silicon Valley startup called Upstartle. A cursory examination of the product then showed that, unlike the free product from Open Office.org, Writely was by no means ready to put in a bid as a serious challenger for Microsoft Word. However, it showed enough that in the hands of a development team backed by the resources of a Google, plus the company’s global server power to deliver reliable web services, it could eventually make Word redundant for many users.
Slowly the web services jigsaw puzzle that Google is building is starting to form. It now has an email product, a word processor, a calendar and a web page builder (Google Page Creator). All of these products will be funded by Google’s advertising model.
We should not be surprised and indeed fully expect to see a number of additional web-based office productivity tools appear from Google in ensuing months. As soon as web service equivalents to Excel and Power Point make an appearance, Microsoft may need to consider seriously how much longer it can stick with its legacy business model of the 1980s.