Another day, another pile of adoration for a misguided Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) project.

The press (busily typing away on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Word, no doubt) is fawning over Google's latest so-called challenge to desktop software, Google Gears. This platform reportedly aims to let users take Google's online applications, like its word processor and spreadsheet, and use them offline.


Well, actually, this is Google's way of copping to the major problem with online applications -- something the boneheaded press corps didn't much emphasize at the time: Online applications don't work when you're offline. Google Gears aims to fix that.

It can't fix the other problems, which are, in a nutshell, that these online applications are slow and limited. The stories don't seem to talk much about that, but hey, unlike most of the people writing these blurbs or plopping them into news feeds, I've actually used this stuff.

But if it comes from Google, it must be the best, right?

Not so fast. Google's "innovation" in this field has been like its "innovation" in mapping and photo management: buying something invented by others. And Google's spreadsheet and word processing software is simple and workable, but nothing special at all. It's about like desktop alternatives that existed a decade ago. The best thing you can say about it is that it's free. It certainly doesn't support the kinds of robust, custom development tools and user base that have made programs like Word and Excel staples in worldwide business.

But if giving away productivity software is such an innovation, maybe the members of the press corps ought to take a look at their computers, where they'll likely see Microsoft Works, not to mention WordPad. Finally, if you must have a full and rich office suite without having to cuddle up to Redmond or subject your work to Google's ad-and-search-based business model, there's OpenOffice, which sets a very high bar for freeware.

And, of course, Gates' evil empire is offering plenty of very useful free software these days. Some of it's even Web-based, which should thrill those poor souls who still insist that moving personal files a long distance through slow Internet pipes is better than batting them around the increasingly fat data channels inside the computer on the desk. You don't hear much about it from a press corps that's conditioned to treat everything out of Redmond as a failure, but there's Office Live, for example. Or Microsoft Office Accounting. And bloggers who are sick of the clumsy online user interface at Google's Blogger and other sites might want to try Microsoft's excellent, free, nondenominational WYSIWYG blogging tool, Windows Live Writer.

Google's latest "threat" to Microsoft's Office software is neither new nor a threat. It's Google rehashing old ideas on the media stage -- just like its lame but endlessly parroted "partnership" with NASA. Sure, the eggheads at Google might produce something kinda useful, but it won't change the world any more than Picasa crippled Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) in image software. Gmail didn't kill Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) mail; Google Chat didn't scratch Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL Instant Messenger; and Google Video sure didn't kill YouTube.

The press may not see the obvious, but investors should. Google is a search and advertising company.

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At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had shares of Microsoft, but no positions in any other company mentioned here. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Yahoo! and Time Warner are recommendations of Motley Fool Stock Advisor. Fool rules are here.