Bing! Bang! Bust! in a Cloudy Office
Today the big tech industry news is that MS plans to challenge Google Docs in the cloud.
So today’s question is, does it matter that these companies are trying to encroach on each other’s turf?
Office 2010 will include lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote when it ships next year.
The new web offering will compete with Google’s free online Docs suite launched three years ago.
Last week Google took aim at Windows with news of a free operating system while in June Microsoft introduced a new search engine called Bing.
The Guardian seems to have more techie details in its story here. Here’s a bit:
For consumers, Microsoft says it will make versions of some programs free online in web-based versions, probably as part of Windows Live. Office Web Applications are not the full applications, but they feature the ribbon user interface, and look leagues ahead of Google Docs. The catch is that the Office Web apps use Microsoft’s SharePoint server (which is used today for the Office Live site). However, Microsoft has been demonstrating them running in Firefox and Safari, not just in IE.
Microsoft has reduced the number of Office packages from eight to five, and the new low-end options give users an extra application. The cheap Office Home and Student edition now includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, Office Home and Business edition adds Outlook, and the Standard version now includes Publisher.
(Aside: The Guardian’s writer says, among other things, that Office 2007 made a “leap forward” with the ribbon menu interface. Frankly, I find tinkering with a menu is hardly a leap forward; it’s more like car makers in the 1950s, who would move chrome around to convince customers that this year’s Bulgemobile 500 was somehow different from last year’s. As far as I could figure out, the “ribbon” added no new functionality and forced me to learn a new way to do what I already knew how to do, simply to create the appearance of change without changing anything.)
One thing that seems unclear to me is this: If these will “ship” with Office 2010,” (see the first story above), does that mean you have to spring for it in order to use the web apps? Guess we’ll see.
In this story, Bloomberg considers the implications of Microsoft’s Bing! (full story here):
Microsoft is “sort of getting their mojo back” with Bing, said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York. The site’s backgrounds — from the Taj Mahal to London’s Tower Bridge — make Google’s primary colors on a white background look like “a trip to the pediatric dentist,” he said.
Lindsay said Microsoft’s advantage may be short-lived, given that the company has made so many missteps in the past.
The story also points out that Bing! seems to be getting more users from Yahoo than from Google.
But, as I have been mucking about the internet while nursing my summer cold, the most interesting analysis of this whole kerfuffle about Microsoft’s and Google’s tussle is this one from the New York Times (full story here), in which the author argues that
- Microsoft doesn’t really expect to cut into Google’s search dominance,
- Google doesn’t really expect to cut into Microsoft’s office or OS dominance, but that
- both of them making these forays to distract the other from seriously competing with their primary product lines (for Google, that’s search; for Microsoft, that’s Office and OS).