A Business Technology Place

Why I’ve gone Google

I’ve gone Google.

Going Google is for individuals too.
I’m sure by now you have noticed Google’s campaign about “going Google”. It’s primarily targeted at businesses, schools, and governments to use the Google suite of productivity applications. That target list covers groups of people well. But what about individuals? Have you stopped and thought about how much of your life is run by Google these days?

There is a reason for it, and it’s not because for the free price tag.
OK. I admit it. The hook for me to try many of Google’s products and services is because most of them are free of charge. I don’t mind the ads displayed on some of the Google services, they don’t detract from the functional use of the product. I also don’t mind that they collect information about my usage habits. Just about every interaction I have in life is tracked by marketers. Google is not alone in this practice. As a business professional, I marvel at how Google has created a business model to give much of it’s software away for free while making revenue by serving ads.

But there’s more to product usage than a free price tag. Free products are great to try. But if they don’t solve problems and add value for people then nobody will continue to use them. As I look at all the Google products that I use each week, it’s amazing to think about the breadth of value they bring to my life. They are solving problems.

A list of how I’ve gone Google and why.

Google ProductHow it helps. Problems it solves.
GmailEmail anywhere I have a connection to the internet. I use a single sign-in to pull email messages from multiple accounts (2 of them not in gmail.com domain)
Google CalendarI share calendars with my wife for family and personal activities. It's easy for me to look on the calendar to see kid's activities and other family commitments.
Google VoiceA single phone number can find me at home, office, or on the go. I have custom groups of people to define specific rules for call forwarding. I can see a complete log of phone calls and voice messages online. Oh yeah, and it supports SMS text.
Google ChromeMy internet browser of choice. A simplified interface gets rid of all the clutter that began to fill other browsers. Under the hood it's built smarter. That's more for the geek in me. Bottom line, this browser is simple and fast.
PicasaOrganize pictures. Online photo albums. Ability to share some pictures while keeping others private.
Google ReaderA single source to aggregate content from news sites and blogs that I like to follow. I don't have to visit each site to see what content is new. Its shows in one place and bolds content I have not read or acknowledged.
Google DocsProductivity software for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms. It doesn't have near the features of the full MS Office. But it's ample for most of the work I do. Plus the files are accessible from anywhere I have an internet connection and shareable with others if I choose.
Google MapsResearch routes to unfamiliar destinations. Look for specific types of businesses on a map by typing a name (i.e. Chinese Food, Dry Cleaner, etc.)

Google services on my radar.
Google announced Chromebook with Chrome OS this week. Chromebook encompasses much of where computing has evolved in the past several years with availability of cloud computing. What I like most about it, is that it’s simple. The traditional PC model to computing is now complex. Maintaining operating system software and local installations of productivity software is expensive in both money and time. Chromebook promises to take that hassle out of consumer’s lives so they can focus on creating and consuming content rather than worrying about the uderlying machine.

Google TV is another service I would like to try. I haven’t purchased a device yet because I’m waiting for it to mature a little as well as gain greater adoption with content providers. The model of connecting the internet with video consumption is already here (YouTube, Hulu, etc.) and traditional media content providers must solve for that. Google is making it’s play with Google TV but I think they are after more.

Can Google stay relevant and liked by consumers?
I think about Microsoft and what that company has done for the advancement of technology and our culture. Despite what you many think about them, the Office suite is a powerful set of products that allows people to solve problems. Yet the company is often maligned in technology circles because their products are expensive and can sometimes fail. Will Google become like Microsoft? Or does the fact that consumers don’t pay for many of the products and services offered by Google change their proclivity to complain about it? Does Google fall into the “you get what you pay for” mode of thinking or will it thrive because it’s products continue to be relevant and solve consumer problems?

What do you think?

Microsoft Office online for free

Microsoft opened testing for Office 2010 today for a select group of testers and previewers. Fortune reports that part of the distribution strategy for the new Office will be a free online version. Yeah, read it again, a free version of Office from Microsoft.

Photo: Creative commons from sunfox

Photo: Creative commons from sunfox

It was really just a matter of time before Microsoft did this. There are good alternatives to Microsoft Office already available for free. Open Office, Zoho, and Google Apps to name a few. I’ve been using Open Office for about two years now. It put me through graduate school and has performed every function I needed for word processing, spread sheets, and presentations. To be fair, it’s my belief that these alternatives provide a good basic alternative for office productivity. But the Office suite from Microsoft I believe is a great piece of software. For power users, I haven’t seen an equal.

So why was this inevitable for the Redmond giant? There are several factors:

  • Small businesses and startups are actively using online office productivity software and Open Source software as a means to reduce costs.
  • Software license fees will become harder to justify for mid to large organizations in the future. Many organizations (business and education) have begun to use Google Apps. See this example in Arizona State University.
  • Microsoft needs to make inroads in ‘open’ software and the stereotypes from the tech community. Just read the comments at the bottom of the post from Fortune mentioned above to see that it still exists.
  • With increasing usage of mobile devices and netbooks, consumers will gravitate towards online alternatives. Microsoft needs a competitive offering in this space.

Investors in Microsoft and the community should see this as a good thing. For the investors, it means Microsoft is attempting to strengthen it’s presence in a new and growing space for office productivity software. It’s a sign that signifies that Microsoft isn’t so big as to think it’s better than an online offering or that other alternatives can’t compete with Office. Investors should also see this as a complementary product for the full Office suite. Some customer and power users will still like the full version on their client. But they can use the flexibility of an online version when traveling.

For the tech community at large there are questions to be answered.

  • How will Microsoft support open document formats?
  • Will they require Internet Explorer?
  • What exactly will the EULA say?
  • How will they protect your identity or provide document security?
  • What type of SLA will be offered on the hosted systems?

Competition is good, because it makes everyone better. Let’s see if Microsoft can successfully give a little to start transforming itself into a new type of company.