Okay, so we all know that Google just launched Google Apps Premier, which is basically their rival to Microsoft Office. At $50 per seat per year, with no install costs and next to no compatibility issues, this is going to be cheaper for a lot of people than the incumbent. (For individuals, it’s basically free.) As a result, either Microsoft’s market share is going to slowly come down, or their prices will. Either would be good for consumers, but the former would be best: competition is always a good thing.
Which is why I don’t think this is going to be the end of the story.
The barriers for web applications are much lower than for desktop ones, for a variety of reasons – mostly that infrastructure is cheaper (you don’t need to print CDs or work out a distribution network) and web applications have to do much less to get working than a traditional desktop app. Other competitors exist: let’s not forget Zoho, whose applications have more integration with each other than Google’s. (And there’s more of them; whereas Google has email, documents and a spreadsheet, Zoho has that plus presentations plus an awful lot more.)
But where are the open source contenders? A quick search revealed SynchroEdit, but the back end for this seems a bit overcomplicated for what it is. A while ago there were rumours that Open Office – which I now exclusively use as a desktop Office replacement – was going to have a web version, but that doesn’t seem to have materialised. I would have thought it would be high on both IBM and Sun’s agendas.
It’s telling, though, that we still refer to these tools as “Office replacements”. Microsoft has a stranglehold on the market, and Microsoft Word in particular still takes some beating (it’s probably carrying the company). This is one of those changes that will require a lot of chipping away at the market, rather than something that happens quickly.