Newly asked questions
Why on earth would I want an online spreadsheet?
Thursday June 8, 2006
You probably don't, though the news that Google is trialling one has predictably sent the world of tech commentary into a tizz.
The spreadsheet completes Google's supposed triumvirate of Microsoft Office "killers", along with the word processing programme Writely, which it acquired in March, and webmail service Gmail. There's no PowerPoint online substitute yet, but surely that's just a matter of time?
However, it's unlikely Google will replace Microsoft on our desktops - virtual or otherwise - any time soon. And Google probably knows it.
Some think it's cool to have the integrated package with Gmail and Writely, but consumers are generally not interested in spreadsheets; those that do will want to be able to access it when offline as well as online. You can't with Google's product.
Privacy matters, too. It is not necessarily wise to entrust your personal data to a big corporation, especially one that is being ordered to hand over some customer data to the US government.
Furthermore, the spreadsheet does not offer the functionality of the market leader, Microsoft's Excel. Google's has 200 functions, including data sorting and the ability to search cells for certain information, but doesn't offer Excel functions such as charts or macros (small programs that automatically complete tasks).
However, the new spreadsheet application does offer one killer feature: you can share access to the spreadsheet among several approved users (as you can with Writely documents). Perhaps it is not particularly useful for consumers, but it is a dream for businesses: spreadsheets are one of the key drivers of the modern enterprise, and although theoretically you can share spreadsheets across a network, the most common method is to email them as attachments. That leads to nightmares keeping different versions synchronised.
But the biggest problem with Google's offering is security. What self-respecting IT manager would entrust sensitive corporate information to a Google server? Would corporate governance laws even allow it, given that spreadsheets often contain proprietary data and algorithms? This is of particular concern to organisations such as banks, but privacy and security matter to every business.
Perhaps none of this is the point, though. David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research, believes it is all a case of distraction tactics.
"OK, this is just silly," he writes on his blog at Jupiterresearch.com. "Google is just playing with Microsoft's (hive) mind. Scaring the troops. Sleight-of-handing the managers."
Does a spreadsheet fit into Google's "core competency"? Is it something it can use to gain market share? Card thinks not: on a score of one to three, where one is a competitive disadvantage and three is core competency and leverage, Card rates this a zero in three categories (how close it is to search, whether you'd use it habitually, and whether it can use Google's existing market position), and a one in just one category - its "platform potential". Leading, he says, to "a net Google focus of: zero".
We're pretty sure he didn't need a spreadsheet to work that one out.
article source http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,1792107,00.html