I've recently written how Microsoft is using Microsoft Office as a means of hooking customers and getting them embroiled in its cloud services. I also said that Microsoft Office better than Google Docs and at the moment it is; I didn't write that for most people, most of the time, Google Docs is all the word processor that we need. And now it's time to write about Google's assault on Microsoft Office, because ten years ago when Google released Google Apps, many people thought Google were trying something new "just because it was there to be tried." Now the Google Apps team are talking about grabbing 80% of Microsoft Office users and after their successful 2014, this seems perfectly reasonable.
What was different about 2014? That's because Google has persuaded more and more large companies to use its own email, word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and cloud services (encompassing computing and storage). Amit Singh, Google for Work's president, has shared the plan to steal one of Microsoft's core markets and it starts with the applications, which need to have between 85% to 90% of the functionality of the Microsoft Office equivalents. As part of this, the team need to not worry about the missing features – especially Excel. Excel can handle more data than Google Sheets and with every new version, finance and accountancy departments all over the world pour over the new technical specifications with glee. Google isn't unduly bothered by this: Excel's more advanced functionality is only needed by around 10% of the workforce.
Related to this and something that I already appreciate is how Google Apps works with Microsoft Office format documents without batting an eyelid. I work between Google Docs and Microsoft Word .doc and .docx format documents on a number of devices and my devices, using Google Apps, just copes with the changes. A couple of the more complicated and larger documents used to complain about incompatibilities when handling images but this was resolved a couple of updates ago. I don't need to install another application or even worry about file formats, I can just click and go. This is beneficial to me and I like to poke about with computers, but many of the users I support in my other day job don't want to understand what file format they're using, they just want it to work. Tieing this up is how Google accepts that businesses have already paid for their Microsoft Office licenses so doesn't want companies to replace Office with Apps, but supplement it (at first). They're already seen high profile examples of this; a business will try Google Apps and will convert more and more users across from Office. Those users who don't need Office, don't need to pay for it.
Other parts of the Google Apps process include providing online training resources and a community of power users to coach and run through tutorials, similar to the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional designation. Telling users how to do something is one thing but showing them, and having an accessible coach available, is another. This part of the project also involves demonstrating other products within the Google portfolio, such as video conferencing solutions and of course, the search engine.
One way to encourage an increase in use of Google's services is to ensure that mobile workers are able to access their information on mobile devices – in particular, the 'phone. This is why our Android smartphones support Google Apps and support them well, too. The idea is to have access to the same features and tools across the range from smartphone, tablet, Chromebook and traditional laptop or desktop computer.
Armed with these features, Google Apps is a credible way for a large business to save a significant sum of money. Google isn't trying to replace Microsoft Office overnight, but accepts that some users will still need Office. For those users who don't need it, Google Apps for Work could work out much cheaper as users won't need such a high-powered computer with far fewer licences. From my enterprise experience, the software licences for our typical desktop computer built is around 45% of the overall cost. Switching to Google Apps will save around 20% of the box deployment cost.