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Google Touts Alternative to Office Upgrades

Google proposed that its suite of online applications can serve as an alternative to the traditional Microsoft Office upgrade cycle.

In a Tuesday blog post headlined "Upgrade Here," Matthew Glotzbach, Google's enterprise product management director, claimed that there is no need for organizations to replace Office 2003 or Office 2007. Those premises-installed applications can be used in conjunction with the Google Apps service.

Using Google's service, Office files get saved in their native format to Google's Internet cloud. Google plans to have a new capability available "in the coming months" where users will be able to collaborate using those same native Office files, the blog noted. The capability is based on technology that Google acquired when it bought DocVerse in March.

Users of Google's service also get automatic back-ups of data through a "synchronous replication" capability. With this capability, actions within the programs are "simultaneously replicated in two data centers at once," according to a Google blog post.

Google's announcement comes on the eve of Microsoft's launch event for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, happening on May 12. Microsoft has beefed up the features in both Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. However, companies will have to make some infrastructure investments to get all of the benefits.

A table in Google's blog post hints at some of the infrastructure investments organizations will have to make, including investing in 64-bit hardware and running SharePoint 2010.

In the recent past, Microsoft has belittled the thin capabilities of Google Docs, but the company is also rolling out its own browser-based applications that will be part of the Office 2010 launch. The new Microsoft Office Web Apps will enable document sharing and collaboration online, which are the current strengths of Google Docs. However, organizations will have to pay to use Office Web Apps through Microsoft's online services or use SharePoint 2010 to enable the collaboration capability.

Microsoft has also criticized Google's tendency to avoid versioning by adding or removing features in Google Apps on the fly. For instance, Google temporarily removed a feature in Google Docs that allows users to work offline. Google took that action to create an HTML 5-based version of its offline Google Gears app. However, Google is also making its Web apps richer and claiming that they will enable "character-by-character real time collaboration," according to a recent Google Docs blog post.

For IT shops used to testing software releases before internal deployment, Google's approach may seem different, but it's not much different than the cycles offered by other software-as-a-service providers. In that respect, Microsoft also offers its own hosted applications as part of its Business Productivity Online Suite offerings. BPOS applications have a periodic update cycle of about every eight weeks.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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