I've been following the tussle between Google and Microsoft this week with a mixture of amusement and amazement. If you haven't been following along at home, Microsoft took a dip into the cloud with the release Office 2010 Online this past week. Meanwhile, Google, feeling a wee bit threatened by Microsoft honing in on its territory in the cloud, took a few pot shots at Redmond's offering in a blog post on the Official Google Blog.
Microsoft's Alex Payne, director of online product management at Microsoft fired back with a lengthy blog post of his own the following day and the rumble was on. The fact is, however, if you look at these two products with an impartial eye, they actually are very different.
Office 2010 Online
The purpose of Office 2010 online is simple. It provides a place for Office 2010 users to share and access Office documents online. The key here is that you really need to be an Office 2010 user. It will work with earlier versions of Office back to 2003, but the whole idea is to provide an online environment for Microsoft shops. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, just so long as you understand that from the start. This is not really a place for open collaboration or to create a quick document. It's for Microsoft, which is just about par for the course, and shouldn't be anything we should be surprised about after watching Microsoft all these years.
Google Docs is a bit different. Anyone can use it, but it doesn't play quite as nicely with Office. I've copied and pasted Google Docs documents into Word, and it works OK, but you can lose some formatting in the process. If you want to work with people who use Office, you might be better off with the Microsoft offering because it should be compatible (emphasis on should here because I haven't tested it yet). Google Docs is great for me. I wrote this blog post there, as a matter of fact.
It provides a quick and convenient way to create and share fairly simple documents. You don't get sophisticated features here (but neither do you in Office 2010 online). So while Google and Microsoft can snipe at each other, the fact is their products serve different audiences and different purposes.
If you were starting a business today, chances are you are not going to spend the money on expensive Office licenses when there are are reasonable and cheap (even free) alternatives like Google Docs. If you're a Microsoft shop, and you are using Office, then the Office Online addition is a very nice feature that brings the Office paradigm into the 21st century. Beyond that there's nothing much to see here. We can now resume our regularly scheduled program where Apple continues to pound on Adobe.