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Renting vs Buying

$50 / year for an office suite sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it?  Google is hoping you’ll think that too, as they tempt users to sign up for their new Google Apps bundle.  Various pundits are hailing this move as Google’s entry into the office productivity space, with headlines such as Google Targets Microsoft, Google Package Challenges Microsoft, and Google Battles Microsoft Head-On. 

So what do you get?  Well, everything that’s currently in the Google bundle you use today – mail, calendar, spreadsheet, word processor, RSS reader, and a dashboard (which I haven’t yet tried) – plus up to 10 Gigs of storage, your own domain name, 24/7 support, service guarantees, and the ability to strip out the Google ads. 

In other words, not much more than you already have for free.

How does it compare to Microsoft Office?  Poorly.  There’s a reason why Office costs what it does.  It includes more, like Powerpoint presentations, for starters.  The Office applications are far more powerful, more usable, better integrated, and produce better results.  And lastly, they run faster, because they’re not hosted.  In terms of functionality, the Google Apps bundle is much more like Microsoft Works, the downscale package Microsoft has sold for 20 years now to students, families and small businesses.    Works sells for …. $49.95, direct from Microsoft.  You can get it for $35 at retail.  That’s a one time license fee, not an annual fee.

It’s that old rich client / thin client argument all over again.  A couple of guys named McNeally and Ellison cooked that doozy up over a decade ago.  The problem is that we can all see that the offerings just haven’t been that great, and Googles latest isn’t a lot different. Nobody can figure out why we should rent low value software from them, when we can just go and buy the real thing…

Om Malik said it best: “Will Google be successful? Who knows – it is fun to watch though!”

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Erik Schwarz February 22, 2007, 5:16 am

    If they integrated JotSpot in this would be really cool.

    As it is, it's mostly just more mail storage. Not bad for $50 a year, but not that exciting.

  • roderickm February 23, 2007, 5:41 am

    Not to pick nits, but it's truly "Rent vs. License," or "Hosted vs. Local," or "Recurring vs Non-recurring."

    "Buying" suggests ownership, which the tiny EULA print precludes.

    OpenOffice bests them both: Low cost, local native apps, full featured, file compatible… and source code too!

  • Alec February 23, 2007, 6:16 am

    Of course, Rod. It is in fact, license. And I can't speak to the virtues of OpenOffice, have never used it.

  • MGU February 23, 2007, 8:13 pm

    Try Appleworks!

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