Forrester analyst says Microsoft Office rules, Google Docs is a "failure"

As Office 2010 hits the retail shelves, a Forrester analyst says that Microsoft's productivity suite will continue to dominate the market. As for Google Docs, he flat-out calls it a "failure."

Forrest analys JP Gowdner writes in his blog that 67% of people use Office at home, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics PC and Gaming survey. He concludes:

"Office is the most ubiquitous -- and therefore successful -- consumer client program aside from Windows OS."

Based on Office 2010's features, he expects that domination to continue. As for Google Docs, he calls it a "failure," based on what Forrester says is a measly 4% market penetration:

"In some ways, the Office vs. Google Docs debate doesn't merit a lot of consideration --- it's still no competition. In terms of usage and penetration, Google Docs remains a failure --- so far, anyway. Only 4% of U.S. online consumers say they regularly use Google Docs, according to Forrester's Consumer Technographics PC and Gaming survey. Let's think about that for a second: We're talking about a free software-as-a-service offering from one of the top brand names in technology. The offering has been available for over three years from Google (and two more years if you count Writely before Google purchased Upstartle). And yet only 4% of consumers are onboard."

Gowdner doesn't expect that to change any time soon, if ever. Here's why he believes consumers haven't warmed to Google Docs:

  • "The browser-based experience remains limited. Whatever advances have happened in programming, the fact remains that browser-based programs offer a more limited experience than client software, as of today.
  • Consumers have a deep, longstanding relationship with Office. Consumers have years' worth of digital assets designed in, and still most suited to, Office.
  • Local computing power is plentiful and cheap. Unlike enterprises, consumers aren't thinking "how can I move to 'the cloud'?" Instead, they will leverage what's most convenient. All that computing power in their existing PCs still sits ready to use.
What does this all mean? That many consumers would rather purchase or pirate Office than use free Google Docs."

When it comes to the consumer market, I think that Gowdner is right for now. But over time that may slowly change, if Chrome-enabled netbooks ever catch on, and if broadband Internet connectivity ever does become truly ubiquitous.

But the consumer market isn't where you can find the real danger to Office. It's in the enterprise. Enterprises have universal, broadband connectivity, and they are extremely price sensitive. Google Apps, which includes Google Docs as a core component, represents a real danger to Microsoft there.

Microsoft clearly is still far ahead in enterprises as well as with consumers with Office. Microsoft recognizes the danger from Google Docs, and with the Web-enabled version of Office it has taken a step to fight back. But Web-enabled Office leaves much to be desired; it's only really useful when used in concert with a full version of Office. Unless Microsoft powers up Office on the Web, five years from now, Google Apps may make significant inroads in the enterprise.

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