Apparently, Eric Schmidt turned up at a Sun news event, and the yahoos that somehow have passed themselves off as business technology journalists interpret this as Google declaring war on Microsoft, teaming up to offer competing office soutions. I don’t know. To me, this sounds more like Scott McNealy trying to get on the Google bandwagon that anything else. I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and as someone who loves Google products (Google Desktop saves my bacon at least twice a week) and who has hauled his computing environment around with him since 1985 (with the bad back to show for it) I would like nothing better than to move everything online.
But there are some things that need to be worked out first. Gmail is great, but I don’t use it because I have 4 gigs – not 2.8 – stacks of old mail around – and need the integration to my desktop environment. Openoffice is great, but still requires installation on a local processor. I would like that delivered online – and it seems that with interfaces such as Wikiwyg we might see that happening. But there is a tremendous amount of add-on software such as Endnote, Acrobat, templates and stuff that needs to 1) work and 2) have a migration process in place before we can talk about a replacement for Office.
In the meantime, I will use FolderShare to keep things synchronized, jump on anything that Google offers, trusting and hoping that they will keep on innovating rather than get embroiled in battles and wars they don’t need to fight.
And there is hope in a younger generation – my elder daughter uses her PalmPilot to take notes, storing them online PeanutButterWiki. The others (one grade school, one high school) use MSN and other online tools, and effortlessly move their schoolwork back and forth between school and home using an the school’s LMS. Word and Excel are to them just things that turn up – and having something similar online, especially something that could recognize you from client to client, would be a gradual change, not a wholesale replacement, for them. They just might be the overserved audience a disruptive technology like an online office needs.
UPDATE: Robert Scoble makes a useful distinction: He likes web apps for occasional work, and client apps when he needs to use them a lot. At this point in the technology evolution, he is onto something. I remember when WordPerfect came with a mainframe version. Wonderful standardization logic, cumbersome interface. The bridging, of course, lies in applets downloaded with anticipation of use, or based on prior usage patterns. Imagine logging into an airport lounge computer and it instantly beginning to download the functionality you use the most, gradually and seamlessly moving you from web to local interface….