The Battle Rages On

Microsoft Office Web Apps vs. Google Docs


Oh Microsoft, a decade ago you weren’t prepared to relinquish your monopolistic strangle-hold on the world’s technology. Perhaps you discounted how influential the Internet would be; perhaps the appearance of Google on the search engine scene didn’t seem threatening. But how the tables have turned! Google has grown to behemoth size; many of us now consider it to be our benevolent overlord. And Microsoft, you’re scrambling to retain a place in this regime.

Although Bing was a noble effort on your part to compete in the search engine market, it was too little too late. By the time Bing appeared, Google was no longer a noun but a verb as well. How do you compete with a company that offers pretty much all of its services for free?! It’s almost not fair! With feet dragging, you’ve been forced to follow suit. You’ve now introduced Microsoft Office Web Apps! It’s just like Google Docs, but it’s by Microsoft! Huzzah!

Okay, okay, to be fair, your Office Web Apps do have some useful aspects. The biggest win for these web apps are that they are essentially the same as the Microsoft Office software. The format will be familiar to those of us who use Word, Excel and Powerpoint (which is pretty much everyone.) Google Docs, on the other hand, has a slightly different format than the Office suite we’ve all been using for years. There is a bit of a learning curve when someone first begins using Google Docs, and that can always be frustrating.

Another win for Microsoft Office Web Apps is its synchronization with Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Basically, when a person creates an account for the Office Web Apps, they are creating a Windows Live account. This account links to Hotmail, MSN Messenger, and 25GB of free online storage called SkyDrive. This storage can be used for your Office Web App documents, or for photos and videos that you upload. Google has fallen way short here, by only offering 1GB of free online storage. Let us be the first to admit to you, Microsoft, you have won this round by a landslide.

Microsoft Office Web Apps also offer comparable features to Google Docs. They have a bunch of templates to choose from. Documents are shareable (with other users of Windows Live.) Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the Office Web Apps site, essentially Windows Live, has some annoying usability issues. Navigation of the site is not very intuitive, and it feels as if there is too much being offered in one place. The segregation of Windows Live’s other offerings is not clear; if all you want is use the Office Web Apps, you are still signed into MSN Messenger and Photos. Perhaps some people would consider that a help rather than a hindrance, but in our opinion, it’s nice to have the choice of which services to be signed into at one time.

Well Microsoft, you have certainly made a valiant effort in your competition with Google. The Office Web Apps are pretty impressive, and the amount of free storage space you offer certainly trumps Google’s measly 1GB limit. Google does have an easier and more intuitive UI, though.... and they have a “drawing” document option! Google FTW!

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