Microsoft sends gamblin' Pete Rose to the plate in swing at Google Docs

Document fidelity at issue, says Microsoft, touting Office Web Apps; often moot, says analyst

Microsoft today took another shot at rival Google, calling its rival's online application suite, Google Docs, "too big a gamble."

A Gartner analyst countered that Microsoft's point was moot for many users.

In a post to its Office 365 blog and an accompanying video, Microsoft claimed that relying on Google Docs to open Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations is "a gamble" because the former couldn't replicate the content and formatting of the original.

"Why gamble with your time and Office content? When you build and share compelling, accurate, and impactful information, make sure you get what you bargained for," Microsoft wrote.

The video, which stars Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider and featured a cameo by former Cincinnati Reds baseball player Pete Rose, made the same point, portraying a contest between a casino-goer and Schneider as a sleazy dealer.

"I have a beautifully-crafted presentation created with Microsoft Office," says Schneider. "I send it to you. And if you can open it, using Google Docs, without data loss and format discrepancy, then you sir, get to walk away with this shiny little keychain."

Naturally, the man betting what Schneider said was his "wallet, your credibility and your upcoming promotion," loses.

Near the end of the one-minute video, Rose -- who was permanently banned from baseball for gambling on games -- saunters up and says, "That's too big a gamble. Even for me."

Microsoft manages to squeeze in banned-from-baseball Pete Rose in its gambling-themed slap at Google Docs.

Microsoft used the gambling theme to trumpet its own Office 365 subscription plans, which include rights to install Office 2013 (for Windows) or Office for Mac 2011 on up to five devices per household or per worker, and offer access to Office Web Apps, the browser-based Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

Even Google's 2012 acquisition of Quickoffice, a suite of tablet-based productivity apps, hasn't improved Google Docs' document fidelity, Microsoft claimed.

Google rolled the Quickoffice team into its Google Apps group, and has been adding improved file viewers and document editing tools to both iOS and Android since then. Last month, Google began handing out Quickoffice for Apple's iPhone, and Android smartphones and tablets, free of charge to customers with Google Apps for Business accounts. Those releases followed iPad support that debuted in December 2012.

Two weeks ago, Google added a Quickoffice-based document viewer to Chrome 27, which is near the end of its beta testing period and could ship in final form at any time.

Guy Creese, an analyst with Gartner, echoed Microsoft's take on Quickoffice, saying that the addition to Google Apps has resulted in a only a slight improvement in document fidelity when opening Office files from Google's cloud-based apps.

"It is true that Office Web Apps are ahead of everyone else as far as document fidelity," Creese said in an interview Friday. "It's the nature of the beast."

But what Microsoft didn't say, Creese argued, was as important: Not everyone needs true fidelity.

Gartner just completed a study of iPads in enterprises, Creese said, and found that a very common use case for Apple's tablet was as a platform for reading documents and doing light annotation, often relying on PDF documents. It was rare that someone needed to do heavy editing or document creation in Office or any alternative.

"Microsoft has trained everyone that they need to give Office to every employee," said Creese. "That's simply not true."

This article, Microsoft sends gamblin' Pete Rose to the plate in swing at Google Docs, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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