Sunday, 12 July 2009

Google hastens launch of Microsoft 'Office-in-the-Cloud'

(By Richard Holway 4.00pm Sunday 12th July 09) Further to the announcement last week of the Google Chrome OS (see our post – Google Chrome – Do we really need another OS?) there is a good critique in today’s Sunday Times – Can Google break Windows?

I’m in complete agreement that it will take both huge effort and much time to break Microsoft’s strangehold on both operating systems and Office-type software. The ‘familiarity’ of the Microsoft ‘way of doing things’ is a powerful aid to inertia!

But we would be equally wrong to think that something pretty earth-shattering was not occurring. Many of the world’s laptop makers ignored netbooks a couple of years back. Now they are the gadget of, and for, the time. You might not be able to make money from them but they are sure going to affect (damage?) your business anyway. Netbooks are a classic ‘disruptive technology’ that I have written so much about over many years.

Here I rather liked (ie agreed with!) Henry Blodget’s views:

" No-one expects Chrome to make much of a dent on Microsoft’s empire from day one. But Disruptive Technologies do not immediately replace existing technologies because they are better. In fact, in the beginning, they are worse. They’re just simpler, cheaper, and more convenient. They appeal to the low end of the market (in this case, netbooks), which doesn’t need all the bells and whistles that the high-end needs. They initially gain share in the low end, and the incumbent doesn’t care about losing it because it’s low-margin share.

“But then . . . the disruptive products get better and more fully featured and they begin to migrate up to the mid-market. And the incumbent is forced to retreat to the high-margin high-end. And then, eventually, the disruptive product becomes mass market and the incumbent becomes a rickety old colossus that crashes in on itself

Well, that’s exactly what is happening with netbooks. Although Microsoft is under threat like no other time, my own gut feel is that this is forcing Microsoft to change its game - certainly the 'pace of its game'. I, for one, would still prefer a netbook with a Microsoft-lite operating system (Windows 7) and Office-in-the Cloud. Google Chrome OS might just hasten that day.

Indeed, that's pretty much what everyone now seems to expect to be announced at the Worldwide Microsoft Conference this week. The blogsphere is full of reports that Microsoft is ready to launch Cloud versions of Word, Excel & Powerpoint; allowing remote access to documents. Indeed many believe that Google announced details of its Chrome OS last week as a 'spoiler' exactly because it believed Microsoft was due to launch something big this week.

Should be another interesting week!

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