Google Apps Won't Kill Microsoft Office

Mr. Softy can relax. The G-man ain't out to get him. Not that badly, anyways.

There have been times when Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) looked bent on destroying all that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) holds dear. First, claim dominion over the Internet regardless of what browser package happens to lead that particular pack. Then, launch a direct attack on Microsoft Office with a collection of free, online office-style programs. Heck, the professional version of that collection even has a catchy name -- Google Apps.

Not so fast, though. A high-ranking Googler recently held an Apps presentation in Ann Arbor, Mich., and what he said might help the good folks in Redmond sleep at night. It's very simple: Google will never compete with the professional firepower of Microsoft Office.

For example, Excel will remain the high-powered data cruncher that it is today, unrivaled by the simpler, lightweight Google Spreadsheets. This one just isn't meant for heavy industrial use. Pivot tables, macros, and integration with databases other than Google Base would be nice, but would add too much heft to the code to justify reaching out to the relatively small number of users who depend on these features. Google remains an online-centered business, with the data flow restrictions that that implies and an Everyman customer profile on top of that.

For that same reason, there won't be any character or speech recognition features for the foreseeable future, so Nuance Communications (Nasdaq: NUAN  ) can take a deep breath, too. Big G does have an OCR (optical character recognition) engine of its own these days, as well as patent applications on voice search techniques.

The goal in Mountain View has always been to make it easy for people to interact with information. Being all things to all people isn't in the job description. Google Apps presents a simple office suite, tied together with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and other productivity and communications tools. It's simple, and you can't beat the price since it's free. This is great for small businesses and family groups, but perhaps less of a boon for large corporations.

The speaker in Ann Arbor was Scott Johnston, who helmed product development at small-biz productivity start-up JotSpot before Google bought that company. The customer list there, which included luminaries like eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , and Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC  ) , must have been a major reason for that deal. So yes, Google has business ambitions in the productivity software field, but no plans to own the whole market.

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