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March 09, 2007

Online/offline apps convergence

by Josh Bernoff

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington reads the tea leaves on a Microsoft developer's edited blog, concluding that Microsoft has a team building a competitor to Google Apps -- an online office suite.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. If I were a strategist at Microsoft, of course I would have a team working on this as a defensive move. Whether I release it, steal features from it, or kill it depends on what the world looks like 2 years from now. It's not like they're short on development resources. But 2 years from now, if Google apps is going great, you can't go back in time and develop a competitor.

In a previous post I suggested the key to Google apps' success is offline browsing. Interesting comments came back.

If Microsoft is looking for a way to let office apps work in a browser, and Google is looking at ways to get Google apps to work offline, they will converge somewhere in the middle. Then the fireworks will begin!

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Google Apps is much more about competing with MS Exchange then MS Office. And here in this case its very powerfull.. specially because of its API. For example we are now developing an FREE open source "business application platform" (think salesforce.com). Our first application is working tightly integrated with GOOGLE APPS. Check it out if you are interested. http://www.applicationexchange.com



thanks for your comments and the link.

Lars Plougmann

Google's apps represent the collaborative way of working: Invite other people to join what you are working on and work on it together. Easiest to do on a centralised platform but it requires users to be online (most of the time). As browsing itself develops off-line capabilities, so will Google Apps.

I suspect Microsoft will try a different approach rather than copy the online collaborative apps out there. Stay with the desktop apps that everybody is familiar with but build collaboration into them by using Microsoft's messaging platform. Changes to a document are packaged as messages, fired off to other people editing the same document to appear in near-real time.


I am wondering how you feel about MSFT NetDocs? IMO this was simply before it's time. What Google is doing isnt that revolutionary.

Convergence is the only way, a hybrid way. No more 100% rich client, or 100% Ajax/Thin/SaaS. But this is where MSFT has teh advantage.

With 450+ million Office users, by simply adding online services they can get their user base to the middle faster. Goog on the other hand has a few thousand active (a few hundred thousand maybe registered but not daily users - dont belive the hype). and 95% of those aleady have office.

for google to win they need to win market share, then get the users to the middle. This is a huge task, even 1% of users in this market means something like 5-7 million users. They dont have a run rate to get there anytime soon. Especially with a Beta product that has no roadmap.

If all this is about email then Gmail is a failure given it's third behind Yahoo/Hotmail/MSN. and most companies need to pay a partner for backup?

The API mentioned isnt advantage either, how many visual studio, .Net developers are out there today versus AJAX ro REST (can Goog decide which..). but given Goog has open source in it, maybe that's an angle?

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