The word processor is one of the most fundamental pieces of productivity software. It's where we put ideas down on paper, at least virtually. It's where we capture thoughts and organize them into memos, letters, papers, or books. The same is true for the spreadsheet, which allows us to organize, analyze and make sense of data.
Microsoft's Office suite of productivity tools has been the default choice for millions of businesses, schools, and organizations for decades. More than 258 million, at that. Add to that another 40 million individuals who subscribe, according to the company's most recent quarterly earnings report.
Then, Google came along with G Suite, offering Docs, Slides, and Sheets as an alternative to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. There are, of course, a handful of other tools in each, but the point is that Google now offers an answer to just about every Microsoft Office product.
It's actually an interesting battle for a few reasons. The first reason is that despite the fact that Office has been around almost as long as the personal computer, it is still a cash cow for Microsoft.
That means every time Google makes a compelling case for ditching Word et. al., it's a big deal to Microsoft. And, let's be honest, Google Docs is already a better tool for collaboration than Word. It just is.
That's important, maybe now more than ever, and I think that's an upward trend that isn't going to change anytime in the near future. Word and Excel may have advanced features you won't find in Google's versions, but they fall short when it comes to what really matters--collaborating with the people you work with.
That's what makes Google's move to more tightly integrate its productivity tools under a new collective brand called Google Workspace so interesting, and a real threat to Microsoft's dominance in this space after all these years. Basically it is G Suite with a few new features and a new name. I have thoughts about that, but I'll come back to it in a minute.
Google Workspace essentially integrates Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet, and a few other Google apps, along with new features that include the ability to:
- Preview linked documents or slide presentations without having to open a new tab.
- Launch a group chat from within a document that you are all collaborating on.
- Create a new shared document while in a group chat.
- View a contact card, known as a 'smart chip' when you @ mention someone in a document or comment.
Those are genuinely useful features that make Google Workspace an even more viable alternative to Office.
By the way, I do want to mention something about the new branding. It's a common thing for companies to change an existing product or service and give it a new name, even though there wasn't anything wrong with the old name, or really much different about the product.
It's so common that I actually just wrote yesterday about Microsoft doing almost the same thing. I have a rule, though: If someone were to explain your service, don't make them say "it's basically this old thing, but with this new feature, and they gave it a new name."
Just add the feature and leave the name alone. If you're going to change a name, there has to be a reason, and that reason should be readily apparent to the average user who didn't read your press release explaining it.
In Google's announcement, one of the "major developments" the company says is coming to Google Workspace is "a new brand identity that reflects our ambitious product vision and the way our products work together."
Google isn't exactly known for clear and concise naming (hello, Google Nest Hub Max, and Google Meet Video), but I think it's clear that the company wants users to take Workspace seriously as an alternative to Office. And, to be honest, it is. For small businesses, especially, the fact that you can provide your team with the productivity and collaboration tools they need, as well as custom email, is a major win.
Unless you're Microsoft, of course.