This week Google announced tighter integration between its online business apps and QuickOffice, the product it purchased in June that enables mobile users to view and edit Microsoft Office documents.
It's the latest volley in an ongoing battle for the heart of mobile users. Microsoft has launched Office365 and SkyDrive in an attempt to attract its loyal desktop Office users to the cloud.
The latest version of QuickOffice is more fully integrated into the Google Apps for Enterprise product. According the official Google blog post on the matter, "In the past few months, we’ve incorporated QuickOffice conversion technology into this process so your Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files look even better when you convert them to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, respectively."
Google is also giving QuickOffice for iPad away for free to all its enterprise customers. That app makes it possible for iPad users to read and edit Office documents.
Google bought QuickOffice expressly to help Google Apps for Enterprise customers access and share Office documents with colleagues who might not be using Google Docs -- and help prevent customers from drifting to the Microsoft offering. Given the popularity of Microsoft Office, being able to work with Office documents on any platform including iOS and Android gives Google a substantial advantage.
In fact, a report published by Morgan Stanley (pdf download) last May predicted that 25 percent of tablet users would buy a Windows tablet precisely because of the easy Office integration. If users can access and edit Office documents on a different platform, however, that partially negates Microsoft's advantage -- and if users didn't have to worry about Office, would they still buy that Windows tablet?
John Blossom, author of the book Content Nation and president of market research and consulting firm Shore Communications, says Google's popularity has been on the rise and an improved QuickOffice gives it a leg up, especially among younger users who prefer to use less expensive and more open cloud services.
"The integration of QuickOffice into Google Docs reduces Microsoft's ability to attract its Office users to its own cloud-based Office 365 productivity apps and SkyDrive cloud storage services. It's far more likely that younger PC users will continue to 'go Google' for their productivity needs, using QuickOffice to bridge the technology generation gap for those still forced to stick with more costly and less open Microsoft solutions," he said.
Microsoft has been talking about building a version of Office for iOS for some time, although it still has yet to release a product. With this release, Google is undercutting Microsoft before it can get out of the gate with Office for iOS. Blossom believes Google is putting the squeeze on Microsoft with this move. "A future for Microsoft gets harder and harder to imagine with every new Google product and feature," he said.
It's also worth mentioning that as we reported earlier this week that Google announced it would end its support of Google Sync, which allowed Google's online products to sync email, calendar, and contact info using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol. Google will continue to offer the Sync product to Google Apps for Business customers, which would seem to be consistent with the QuickOffice announcement, which is also only for paying Apps for Enterprise customers.
While this QuickOffice update is relatively minor, it's part of an overall strategy to undermine Microsoft's cloud strategy, and is just one more chess move as the battle continues.