Back in February, Amit Singh, the president of Google’s ‘Google for Work’ division, announced bold plans to steal 80% of the market share Microsoft was enjoying with its office suite.
Microsoft Office has dominated the working software sphere for over 20 years, having no difficulty at all in seeing off weaker rivals like IBM’s Lotus product range. However, a decade ago in 2005, Google first ‘waged war’ on the software giant in terms of office suites, and revealed bold plans for their web based office style apps to become the new ‘go to’ tools for workers everywhere.
Ten years on, and Google believe their apps are ready to make a big advance on Microsoft’s market share. They are using an interesting strategy that follows some key points that some might say are a little passive-aggressive:
Google want to ensure their apps have 85-90% of the functionality Microsoft Office currently has. They believe the other 10-15% is not important, as it is well known that the majority of users don’t even scratch the surface of the functionality of things like Word and Excel, and so only a tiny minority of users would even notice the absence of certain features.
Google aim to make all of their products fully compatible with Office, so that people can use both suites in parallel easily and effectively.
They then will not ask enterprises to switch over from MS Office to their software, but to use the two in tandem. This is what some people are calling the ‘sneaky part’. Google realize that many users are highly resistant to change, as are the businesses they work for, so they want people to become used to working with their products while still having their MS Office comfort zone available to them.
Google then expect that when the time comes up for an enterprise that has been doing this to renew their MS Office licenses – a major cost – they might look at how well things have been going with Google’s free products and decide it isn’t worth the investment, adopting Google as their only office solution.
This is a pretty interesting approach, and makes a lot of sense, however Microsoft does have a few things in its back pocket that may help it hang on to a lot of the market share Google desperately wants to take away from it.
Loads of Supporting Third Party Tools
If you use MS Office within your business, there are countless convenient third party tools out there that make getting the tasks you need to complete done as easily as possible is not a problem. Take for example Cogniview. Cogniview have created a tool that lets users quickly convert PDF files – one of the most common outputs from all kinds of software – into files that can be manipulated in Excel.
Taking things out of a PDF and getting them into a state where you can edit and work with them is a pretty annoying manual task, usually, but thanks to tools like Cogniview’s powerful PDF to Excel converter, it can be automated and done extremely quickly. If you move away from Microsoft Office, you may be able to replace a lot of the core functionality you use, but there is nowhere near the same level of third party support to help you with common but time consuming tasks like this.
Businesses are aware of this, and while developers like Cogniview will undoubtedly create products that do similar things for other Office suites should it look like that is what their customers want, at the moment it is Office that has this huge collection of supporting tools for its user base.
MS Office Tools Are Already a Byword for What They Do
Google’s name has become a byword for searching. We use it as a verb – to Google something. We even made a gerund out of it – ‘he was Googling himself’. Even though Google would like to be known for much more than their search engine, given they offer a browser, a mobile operating system, web based email, their huge number of web apps, and of course, a social network nobody likes, the search engine came first and this is what the brand is most associated with.
The power of those kind of brand associations should not be underestimated, and while Google’s name dominates search, it is Microsoft brands like Word, Excel and PowerPoint that dominate office admin and word processing. Just as you are unlikely to ever switch from saying ‘Google it’ to ‘Bing it’, you are also unlikely to stop referring to any presentation you say or give as a PowerPoint, and the word Excel is basically synonymous with spreadsheets.
Getting past a brand association is always tough, and when that brand has had a monopoly for so long it is nigh on impossible. Microsoft have found this in competing on Google’s search engine turf, and Google are likely to find the same thing when it comes to office.
Office 365 Offers the Same Cloud Benefits with the Added Familiarity of Office
Google’s initial selling point over Office, aside from being free, was the cloud. In cloud enterprise software they were trouncing Microsoft, because while their products were much more basic, they had all the benefits of cloud storage and collaboration.
With Office 365, MS gave the same great cloud benefits, but with all of the familiarity and rich functionality people were used to after 20 years of Microsoft Office on their work PCs. It is no surprise that businesses who were keen to use the cloud happily migrated straight to Office 365 when the opportunity arose. With less concerns about training large numbers of staff or unsettling existing processes, companies could keep on working with their familiar office suite and still use the cloud.
These are just some of the reasons Google may well struggle to meet their goal of taking away an 80% office market share from Microsoft, but it will be interesting to see how they fare in trying!