Will Online Software/Cloud Services Kill Off Desktop Packages?

In the 1990s, the corporate world and public sector standardized around Windows for the OS and Microsoft Office for productivity software. It seemed nearly futile for another rival to emerge against Microsoft, as software suites like Wordperfect and Lotus Smartsuite essentially faded from existence. No company dared challenge Microsoft. As users of PCs and productivity software, we were told Microsoft office was the standard. In those days I was resigned to having to spend large sums of money on Microsoft Office. Then Sun Microsystems released the code of StarOffice, allowing various forms of OpenOffice to be downloaded for free. While OpenOffice provided a free alternative, I and other users complained about how slow it was, plus it took up space on the hard drive and used up memory when you opened the program. OpenOffice is capable of running on any major desktop os. While a combo of OpenOffice and Linux made headway in the public sector in other countries, little headway was made on the desktop in the US corporate sector. Microsoft seemed invincible.

Google Documents seems like it was Google’s answer to user complains about OpenOffice, though Google had nothing to do with the creation of maintenance of Open Office. Google quietly transformed Gmail into a major online application that could do e-mail, calendering (to compete with Outlook), the full range of productivity services (minus a few complicated features), and could store gigabytes of data. I quickly switched over my productivity suite use to Google Docs, and did all of my word processing online. It was a huge improvement in that my work was automatically saved on Google’s cloud, so that if I lost my laptop I wouldn’t lose my work. Google didn’t directly challenge Microsoft in the beginning. It worked on offering its services to universities. Universities had horrible archaic e-mail systems, as it was expensive for universities to try to compete with private companies on e-mail development. I recall the antiquated e-mail system Cornell University, my alma matter used to use . It was so crappy many students just used their gmail or hotmail accounts. E-mail accounts from other universities were similar. So Google offered universities its full range of free e-mail, complete with all the other services Gmail has. Early adopters included Arizona State, University of Texas, and Northwestern University. Cornell University outsourced its e-mail to Google. In my senior year at Cornell, I was elated when my university e-mail account had the full Gmail productivity suite services. Microsoft got in on the action as well, and some universities outsourced their e-mail to Microsoft. It became the standard for universities to outsource their e-mail to cloud based e-mails services from either Google or Microsoft. Both Google and Microsoft offer their cloud services to universities for free. Overall the universities saved money on maintaining e-mail, and students such as myself got much better user experiences from their university accounts.

Where Google makes money from the cloud is the enterprise sector. Google offers Google Apps For Business (its full free online e-mail/productivity suite) to businesses at a cost of $50 per user per year. Google has said more than half the Fortune 500 has signed up in some capacity. Google Apps has made big gains into the public sector and the non profit sector (its free for non profits smaller than 3,000 users). Microsoft has responded with a similar effort called Office 365. Not to be outdone, Google has made Google Apps available on iOS and Android devices (smartphones, tablets, and hybrids). Microsoft followed by creating Office 365 apps for Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Google’s taking the lead in innovation away from Microsoft, which just defensively plays catch up. Its gotten to the point where Ballmer has had to step down as CEO, and three major shareholders are calling for Bill Gates himself to be ousted as both men missed very important trends in computing. Consumers and businesses no longer replace their pcs every two years and with cloud services, there’s no reason to spend considerable sums of money on costly application

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