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Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs - Can They Compete?

Jul 30, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs conversations aren’t just happening in the break room. Microsoft and Google themselves have taken some careful shots at one another over the last few months – the most explicit of which include Google’s claim that Google Docs makes Office 2003 and 2007 better (don’t adopt Office 2010) and Microsoft’s counter blog claiming “that’s not true.”

If Google Docs and Microsoft Office 2010 were as similar as tom-ay-toe and tom-ah-toe, we could simply lean back in our chairs and laugh at this whole thing. Problem is, they’re not. There are still differences between the two’s capabilities. Here’s the skinny:

Google Docs. An innovative, free way to create, edit, and share documents online. The browser-based office suite includes slimmed-down comparisons to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – which allow you to do almost every basic operation you need.

The advantages:

  • Collaborative editing in real-time (though SharePoint 2010 now has real-time editing also)
  • Easy document sharing
  • Gradually maturing security platform and enterprise capabilities
  • Google Docs is free; Google Apps for Business is just $50 annually per user

The disadvantages:

  • Lacks formatting and template abilities compared to Office 2010
  • Lacks ability to open/save a wide variety of file types
  • Lacks integration with most enterprise IT platforms
  • Still depends heavily on an internet connection

Office 2010. Microsoft’s freshest batch of office tools – Office’s power set (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) plus OneNote, Publisher, Visio, etc. – accompanied by the debut of the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Similar to Google Docs, these browser-based versions offer higher quality tools with lower quality collaboration. Their web apps marketing video indicates they’re meant for on-the-fly editing.

The advantages:

  • Scalability of the software – i.e. the ability to perform high-level operations
  • Broad formatting and template ability
  • Integration with Microsoft SharePoint; online 2010 version a la Google Docs
  • Established enterprise reputation

The disadvantages:

  • Software and licensing costs, plain and simple
  • Alleged “forced integration” with other Microsoft products – a claim Microsoft has reversed and applied to Google

Who Wins? That depends. As you can see, Google and Microsoft’s business suites have pros and cons over one another – the most notable of which is Google’s outright victory from a cost perspective. Businesses who don’t need extensive document formatting options may benefit from Google Docs while businesses who use their office suite for high-level operations may not.

One of the more “on the fence” issues here is security. The security of Google’s business suite has been questioned consistently in recent months. Those questions, however, are beginning to taper off as more large public agencies adopt Google Apps for Business as their office platform. Notable recent adoptions include Boise State University, the District of Columbia, the City of Orlando (FL), Kansas, and New Mexico.

The biggest news here occurred this Tuesday, when Google announced Google Apps for Government – an Apps Premier edition that meets the US’ federal security requirements. The new edition received an FISMA-Moderate rating from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – meaning it’s authorized to host sensitive (but unclassified) data if stored on servers within the United States.

While Google Docs doesn’t yet have an excellent reputation in terms of security, these recent adoptions indicate they’re gaining ground. The fact that most federal and public agencies are strapped for cash and looking to cheapen technology costs, however, doesn’t allow us to let go of our questions just yet.

That being said, the gap between Google Docs and Microsoft Office still remains – though it’s narrowing by the day.

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