Despite growing interest in so-called cloud computing, Google's online productivity suite is little threat to Microsoft's venerable Office franchise, according to at least one market watcher.
And with Microsoft's inclusion of free, Internet-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in Office 2010 under the banner of Office Web, users will have even less reason to switch to Google Docs (also free to consumers), says Forrester's JP Gownder.
"Office Web apps are designed explicitly to help consumers leverage the power of the cloud … while also not cannibalizing sales of the client program," wrote Gownder.
"Invariably, some reviews will compare Google Docs and Office Web apps head to head as if they were meant to be comparable offerings. This is a mistake," wrote Gownder.
Office Web Apps are tailored specifically for the online environment. For instance, the Office Web version of PowerPoint does not include some of the desktop version's high-performance video editing tools.
The Web apps, on the other hand, offer features not found on the desktop versions, such as tools that let users embed tags into documents and post them on blogs.
"Office Web apps are a complement to the client program," wrote Gownder.
While Google Docs may be more robust than Office Web, Google's offering pales when compared to the full, desktop version of Office, said Gownder. "In some ways, the Office versus Google Docs debate doesn't merit a lot of consideration," said Gownder.
Indeed, Gownder cited a recent Forrester survey that showed that only about 4% of U.S. online consumers use Google Docs, while 67% of consumers use Office at home. "It's still no competition," said Gownder.
He added that online software such as Google Docs isn't likely to displace desktop-based apps any time soon because browser-based apps typically offer limited functionality, while the PC power needed to run client software "is plentiful and cheap."
Microsoft released Office 2010 for general sale earlier this week.
The boxed, Professional edition of Office 2010 is priced at $499, while the download is $349. There's also significant price discrepancies between boxed and download delivery for other versions as well. For the Home & Student version, it's $149 vs $119. For Home & Business, it's $279 vs $199.