Saturday, September 16, 2006

Evil Empires

It is said that revolutions against tyranny invariably reproduce the tyranny they seek to overthrow. It is obvious that Google is striving to topple the Evil Empire of Microsoft. Many have rallied to them because of their "Don't be evil" mission-statement. Their recent entry into the censor-licious Chinese market has put some strain on that claim, and Bill Gate's recent charity work (in the form of the Bill and Melinda Gate's Foundation) has led others to question whether Microsoft is genuinely evil... or more like an innocent man-child rapacious appetites aren't really his fault at all.

That said, I'm a willing minion for the Google empire, if only because my overlords have much cooler toys than those other overlords.

The latest bit of candy that's being dangled before my bedazzled eyes are two online utilities that I've been wanting for years... an online spreadsheet and an online word processor.

Google Spreadsheet is a fully functional spreadsheet that has a look and feel that should be familiar to anyone who's every used Excel. It had a feature set that should satisfy everyone short of the most advanced power users, and you can easily share your work with others, if you so choose.

Writely was originally a third party online word processor. Google has recently bought them (much like they bought Blogger), but haven't quite folded them into the main Google label (again, like Blogger). Again, the product is a fully functional Word processor with a look and feel that should be intuitive to anyone that's used Word or any of the other major word processors out there (which would be... um, Word), and, again, you can easily share documents for mutual editing.

The single strongest feature of either product is that you can save and open Microsoft documents (as well as PDFs and other common filetypes), meaning that if you use Writely, for instance, you aren't isolating yourself from any collegues or businesses that prefer Word documents. Given that much of the Microsoft dominance of the market has been the fact that it's already dominant, this goes a long way towards providing a viable alternative.

Before I get flooded with dozens of irate letters from Linux users, I am aware that the open-source market has also had viable alternatives for Office products that allow for the same sort of cross-communication; however, in the majority of those cases, you have to install a new operating system on your machine (as well as new software) in order to use them... an act that's beyond that skill-set or comfort level of the ordinary user. Clicking on a link and being able to compose a letter than your boss will be able to read, on the other hand, is piece of cake. The fact that you don't have to install Office on your home laptop in order to do work is also a tremendous benefit -- so long as you have web access (and who doesn't, these days?). Likewise... and let's be honest here... the Google name, itself, gives people confidence. The average person has never heard of Red Hat, but everyone has heard of Google.

Will this finally break the MS stranglehold on these markets? Who can say. I know that Microsoft is taking a very serious look at them while Google is coyly saying that these utilities are merely ment to supplement the existing products and that, anyway, online collaboration is wholly different market (and that they have some Floridian swampland to sell to anyone who believes that). Meanwhile, Microsoft's lawyers are sharpening their canines. Time will, of course, tell.

No comments:

what is this?

Tell me when this blog is updated. . .