Is Microsoft Office in danger of having real competition for the first time in a decade? That's the question being asked this week, as the battle for office productivity suites heats up on several fronts.
The impetus for the question was the announcement that technology consultancy Capgemini will begin recommending Google Inc.'s top-level online suite of office software -- Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) -- to its corporate customers.
On one level, it's great news for Google. Capgemini will bring new customers into the fold, and the office suite becomes a potentially significant source of new, steady revenue, since GAPE costs $50 per user annually.
But as good as the news is for Google, it might be just as bad -- or even worse -- for Microsoft. What it does on a perception level is legitimize the notion of online office productivity suites. Paris-based Capgemini is one of the largest service providers in the world; if a huge, global services company is recommending an alternative to Office, it must be ready for prime-time, goes the thinking.
The key advantages of Web-delivered software vs. Microsoft's packaged version is spelled out very clearly in this paragraph from Capgemini's press release announcing the deal:
"SaaS solutions, such as Google Apps Premier Edition, provide a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy alternative to installed, licensed desktop software; they are delivered over the Internet via a Web browser and do not require companies to install or maintain software locally, or to tap into internal IT resources. Having the ability to share, review, and edit data in a collaborative environment on the Web naturally serves the needs of Capgemini's enterprise clients with multiple facilities, global locations and distributed employees."