Yesterday Microsoft unveiled the public beta of Office Live Workspace. Reaction has been mixed, with some positive pieces and some critical pieces comparing Microsoft’s offering to Google Docs and concluding that it’s wanting.
The naysayers are idiots.
Google, by their own admission, will tell you that Google Docs is a pale shadow of Office’s functionality. The attraction of Docs is that your documents are online and always accessible. Oh, and the price is right… free or very inexpensive for small work groups.
Google’s problem is that the world is composed of Microsoft Office users. These are by and large people who value the rich capabilities of a desktop productivity application. Google is asking them to trade the value of that environment for another unrelated value — collaboration and online hosting.
Nobody will argue that collaboration and online hosting aren’t valuable. I myself use all kinds of tools to share documents with colleagues today. Google has to answer this question for me: Why should I give up a familiar and powerful suite of tools just to be able to share documents?
Microsoft has answered it by adding collaboration and online hosting of documents to Office with Office Live Workspace. They’ve said "have your cake and eat it too, Alec". With Office Live Workspace, you can easily create workspaces with project planning templates, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. You can track changes and add comments. You can even easily share your desktop with up to 15 more people for collaborative editing and presentation. It’s as if you combined Google Docs, Basecamp and a screen sharing solution and made them all accessible from any Office application, all the way back to Office 2000.
And it’s free.
It’s a brilliant counterstroke to the Google Docs hype. As ValleyWag said "Office Live Workspaces makes Google Docs look like Google 20 Percent of Microsoft Office". The Silicon Valley community that thinks otherwise has been breathing their own rarified air for far too long. The real world doesn’t work the way they think.