Since the launch of Google Docs, it’s been obvious that Google is slowly constructing a full-scale online office suite. Even though Microsoft’s hold on the market is loosening, the vast majority of web-based office productivity applications still have a long way to go before they can replace their desktop counterparts. So far, Google is holding their ground against the web-based and desktop application competition, but there are still a lot of features missing from existing applications, and some applications have yet to materialize.
Gmail was launched in 2004, and Google Docs (including the word processor previously known as Writely, and an Excel-like application) was launched in 2006, but Google has only insinuated that they’re working on a task management application. If this suite of applications is going to seriously compete against any desktop-based office applications, task and project management will prove to be the cornerstone that will hold the suite together. Google Calendar, although very adept at helping me schedule my time, does not replace a task management application.
I have virtually abandoned Microsoft Outlook, but task management is one of the only things that forces me to launch it. Right now, it’s the easiest solution to get tasks to my Blackberry. Google has been very friendly with Remember the Milk, and it does sync with the Blackberry, iPhone, and iPod Touch. This could turn into a permanent relationship, and it would be immensely beneficial to the collective user base.
Desktop Based Applications
Not everyone has warmly embraced the idea of using online office applications. Even though there is a high adoption rate, and a lot of competition among the applications, some people are just using them as a backup plan and still rely on desktop applications. There are plugins for Microsoft Office and other desktop office suites which allow you to save your work directly to the web-based applications, but formatting and functionality might get lost in translation.
When I was trying out Think Free Office, I readily embraced their low cost desktop suite. I never had to worry about my formatting getting lost when I opened documents created in the desktop applications online. Adobe has launched an AIR interface for their new suite of office applications. I think that everyone would benefit from a similar suite of Google applications. Working offline in Gears is great, but it’s not a replacement for a desktop application.
Google’s contact management is really a comic afterthought. Gmail users have been pretty vocal about their challenges with it, and recently Google has responded by addressing the issues.
You can now stop Google products from adding contacts to your contact list automatically. This followed closely behind some user-friendly adjustments to the contacts interface. If Google wants to compete seriously in this arena, they need to start integrating their products more closely instead of creating silos of information. Google Grand Central address book does not interface with the contacts in Gmail and Google Talk. Imagine the possibilities if it did.