Google Apps taking on Microsoft Office

The world domination of Google is continuing with a revamp of Google Apps, its online productivity suite, to make it more friendly to college students.

The world domination of Google is continuing with a revamp of Google Apps, its online productivity suite, to make it more friendly to college students.

This is crazy like a fox on the part of Google.

Not only because Google Apps is slick but consider what the company is doing — it is getting college students used to computing in the “cloud” of the Internet and not having local versions of routine applications.

And, what do college students do?

They get out of college and get jobs in companies and even sometimes become CIOs and make decisions about buying expensive things like Microsoft Office.

Brand loyalty is a huge deal and often is established in college.

Google Docs is a fully capable word processor and now offers add-ins that are aimed at students, including an equation editor that allows students to complete math problems right in the document. True, it is not quite as powerful as full-blown Office but keep in mind it is not at all the same thing.

You can now translate right in the documents (doc or spreadsheet) from one language to another, but do keep in mind that the translations are kinda funky sometimes.

You can now add Forms to make your documents snap and look more professional.

A lot of people will get used to using Google Apps and keep using it in their small businesses.

If they do, they’ll have to pay $50 per year per seat for commercial use, which includes 25 gigs of online storage per user.

That should be enough for most reasonable users.

Microsoft, of course, is not letting Google’s assault on its turf go unnoticed.

It has released the “technical preview” of “Office Web Apps,” its upcoming version of Office in the Cloud.

This beta version is far from complete but will basically be Microsoft Office Lite, offered via the Web.

When it comes out next year, consumers will get Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

They won’t have to pay but there will be ads to support it.

There will also be a hosted version, like Google’s, for businesses, and a corporate version that larger customers can host themselves and offer to business users.

What remains to be seen is if the Web version of Office will offer synchronization of online documents to off-line storage like your hard drive.

That assures you are always working on the latest version of a document and always have it with you.

This synchronization works very well on Google with Google Gears and is one of the best features of Google Apps.

Without this sync I think it will be possible for people with both online and offline versions of Office to have some confusion about which is the latest version of a document if the user does not remember to do a manual sync to the local drive.

Either way, Google Apps remains a dominant force with more than one million businesses using the application already and no sign of slowing down. Cloud computing is here to stay and Google and Microsoft will be fighting this out for years especially after the launch of Office Web Apps.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com

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