Google Driving Users Away from Office

Thursday, 21 March 2013

I'm privileged to be on a course with original and creative thinkers from all over the world. Students who are on the cutting edge of technology. There are many MacBooks. And a few Windows laptops. There are a lot of iPads. And one Surface. One entity however completely absent in the classroom is Office1.

I've been a part-time student on this course since 2010, and seen three different sets of full-time students all use Google Drive. These are predominantly Gmail users. That must help. However as someone who regularly uses both Drive and Office Web Apps, I think it's because of more than just the convenience - the former is unquestionably the superior product. 

I'm not interested in comparing Drive to Desktop Office. That's unfair. But, as far as I'm concerned, Drive comfortably beats Office's web client in the two areas I consider the most important: performance and reliability. Without either attribute, I don't consider you to be a ready alternative for the equivalent Desktop client. And Office on the web doesn't have enough of either. There are a lot of things I don't like about Drive from a feature and usability perspective. And I mean a lot. But I always use it with the utmost confidence and security. I can't say the same about web Office. There's a constant lingering sense of worry that my work hasn't been saved. Sometimes it's irrational but not always. Yesterday for example. 

The cherry on Drive's cake is its unparalleled collaboration tools. They're invaluable in an academic setting where one regularly indulges in group work. I'm still in absolute awe when I'm editing a document at the same time as someone else and see their edits in real-time, with both of our changes to the document saved seamlessly. Magical.

I don't know what Microsoft's plans for Office Web Apps are. Recent developments suggest they're prioritising Office 365. That looks a compelling service but next year's batch of students won't find it appealing enough. Not when Drive gives them everything they need in the convenience of a browser for free. Microsoft has a lot of work to do in a browser if they want to avoid Office becoming the next Hotmail. They may have market share today, but they are losing mind share every day. 

1. Another Microsoft product without a presence on campus is SkyDrive due to Dropbox's ubiquity. This is unfortunate as SkyDrive is a world class product.