Google is getting confident enough in its web-based office suite that it's now claiming that it will be ready to take Microsoft Office head-on within a year. Not just as a low-cost compromise option, but as an actual alternative for most users. These words are coming straight from Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise unit, and, surprisingly, they may actually turn out to be accurate.
In an interview with Zdnet Asia, the executive made the bold statement that, in just a year, enterprises would have a real option in Google Docs and would be able to switch without too much trouble if they chose to. He acknowledges that, at this point, Docs isn't baked enough to be a viable alternative for the majority of users and is “much less mature” than either Gmail or Calendar, two of the premier products in the Google Apps suite, which the company aims at enterprises. Of course, these products have been around for a significantly longer period of time and Girouard is confident that it won't take long for Docs to catch up.
In the next year, Google expects to introduce some 30 to 50 updates in Docs, which should greatly improve the experience both in terms of features and in terms of speed and reliability. At that point, Docs should be capable enough to fulfill the needs of most users who don't really need the vast array of features available in Office. The point is that Docs doesn't have to be better than Microsoft Office, just good enough for most tasks competing on price rather than features.
The exec believes there will still be a place for Office in the market, but it would be a much more specialized tool for those who really need all the bells and whistles much like Adobe Photoshop. The claims aren't actually that far-fetched, Docs may very well be a great alternative by that time. But, at the end of the day, Office enjoys a very solid dominance of the market, one that is not likely to change too soon. At the same time, Microsoft is also investing in web-based tools aimed directly at Docs and the Apps suite, so Google will have to work really hard to get any significant market share.