Small Business Specialist vs. Google Spreadsheets

Beta, Google

It’s been a while since I talked about G vs. M, but little has changed since then. Google is still whipping that llama.

If you’re a Microsoft Small Business Specialist I hope you remember the IT Basic questions from the Sales & Marketing assessment. If you’re truly one of us you also know that most small business owners, regardless of size, tend to be IT Basic, if not to an extent even IT ignorant

If that turns out to be true, there are bad times ahead for these guys.

Google is launching a (beta) of Google Spreadsheets, a web-driven ajax spreadsheet program that at least for my needs is superior to Microsoft Excel. Yes, superior. Look at some of these modern features that are available directly from a web site: access control, instant sharing (enter an email and send out an invitation), realtime collaboration via IM. No application to install, no viewer.. just the web browser. I don’t need to link data in 3 books, I don’t get easily impressed by shiny objects and I have not built my entire business and accounting system on top of Excel – but what I do often is edit the sheets with multiple people, work from systems that do not have Excel installed, create backups and save my work at every turn. For me, this is perfect and its enough.

More importantly, as I use this I will invite others to look at the Spreadsheets and edit them in a browser instead of piling on attachments and thus starts a viral elimination of Microsoft Excel.


Now I usually caution against trying out beta software for consumers but considering that this runs out of a web browser it just might be worth a try. Honestly, I’d pay for Google Spreadsheets over Microsoft Excel, just based on the few screen shots that I’ve seen. Although ads don’t bother me much I really don’t click on them often and I’d rather pay and get all the screen real estate I can. Really, it is that good… except… Google Talk is just awful which means I’ll be sticking to Outlook until Google admits that their chat is weak and figures out a way to totally rip off MSN Messenger.

Now will an established small business jump at this? Highly, highly unlikely. One thing you start to appreciate about small business IT ignorant cases is that they will run their business out of an Excel spreadsheet. That spreadsheet eventually becomes a full blown application and a CRM and a toaster and a babysitter when the child grows up enough to be able to do basic data entry. Forget about “switching” to Google Spreadsheets for most established small businesses. However, if you ask 9/10 people they will admit that the behavior I just described is detrimental to their business and that there must be a better way. So to all the doomsday predictions in links above, I don’t think Microsoft has much to worry about here. For the new business, IT basic and everyone not living in a spreadsheet… there seems to be less and less of a reason to buy Office 12 with each passing day. Don’t worry about Steve or Eric, they’ll still sell millions of copies of Office 12, in the short term they got nothing to worry about.

In the long term, this is pretty bad for Microsoft. Where is a equivalent of Google Spreadsheets? “Our goal is to make our customers more productive with bloatware” is the likely quote from Microsoft PR because, lets face it, do you think they would really sacrifice their cash cow to win a little fight with Google? Of course not. But in the long term, that same stance of “our customers need features, our customers need integration” will make part of their initiative largely irrelevant. What is more likely here? Microsoft kills its cow and succumbs to Google’s killer online portfolio… or Google rips off MSN Messenger and pushes forward with Gmail, Gcalendar, Gspreadsheet, Gpowerpoint and Goutlook? I’d bet on Google. Which, in essence, is a bet against me and my business.

Who are you betting on today?

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