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Thursday, 08 June 2006 10:38

Google Spreadsheet no threat because network is not the computer

Ocommentur latest poll shows that about two out every three readers think that the newly announced Google Spreadsheet is not a serious threat to Microsoft Excel.  For the record, at the time of writing, there were 557 respondents to the question: Is a Google Spreadsheet a significant threat to Microsoft Excel?  369 (66.2%) answered no, 188 (33.8%) answered yes. POLL STILL ACCEPTING VOTES

The results of the admittedly small sample are not surprising. My hunch is that most computer users intuitively realise what applications and data they want to keep on their desktops and what should go online. Spreadsheets (and word processors) appear to be desktop keepers for most of us.

However, there appears to be a loosely knit bunch of semi-fanatical Google admirers, sometimes referred to as Google fanboys, who take great offence to the suggestion that not every application on earth is suited to the online space.

Register This may come as a nasty shock to the fanboys but, despite what Scott McNealy says, the network is not the computer. It wasn’t true when McNealy made the phrase Sun’s motto more than 10 years ago and it still isn’t true today. Yes, the internet, wireless LANs and mobile telephony have all combined to make networks almost ubiquitous. However, those of us who need to do serious work still travel with laptops with hard drives and a memory stick on our key ring and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Some have argued that there are huge cost savings to be made if everything goes online. All our applications and data stored in huge server farms, under the management of companies like Google, Microsoft and whomever. This is sheer utopian nonsense.

Even if such a scenario becomes technically feasible – and judging by Google Spreadsheets that’s quite a way off - the so-called cost savings to the user are yet to be demonstrated. Not only would we have to pay to use our applications and for the storage of our data but we would also be required to pay the network connection fees.

Let’s say we’re travelling with a thin client device as opposed to a slim laptop with a disk and we want to access a spreadsheet or word processing document. With the thin client we need to find a network access point and then we need to pay the connection fee plus the cost of using the application – nothing is free – and of course the cost of data storage and management. With our laptop, we’ve already paid for the application and storage upfront, and we don’t need to find a network and pay connection fees.

The fanboys of course will argue that the few hundred dollars that we pay for local storage and our office productivity applications will be more expensive than a fully online solution. Show us the proof.



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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.




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