Google owns the market for online productivity applications, thanks largely to the affinity shown by upper income individuals for free software.
Since October 2006, Google Docs & Spreadsheets has captured the lion's share of traffic to online productivity applications, according to statistics released today by audience metrics firm Nielsen//NetRatings.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets saw 445,762 unique visitors in October, who spent an average of 10 minutes there. That represents 92% of unique visitors and 95% of time spent that month across all the major providers of Web-based productivity tools, a list that include EditGrid, Zoho.com, Thinkfree.com, Numsum.com, and WriteBoard, among others.
Since then, Nielsen//NetRatings reports that growth has been flat. Google Docs & Spreadsheets attracted 424,785 unique visitors in November and 432,156 in December. The average visit length has increased from 10 minutes in October to 14 minutes in December.
"Web-based productivity software further extends people's use of the Web browser beyond Web site visitation, and shows how the collaborative power of the Internet is bringing traditionally offline activities online," Jon Stewart, senior analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, said in a statement. "Google has capitalized on its devoted audience and wide brand recognition to gain traction quickly in this space, but there's clearly a lot of room for growth."
Google's devoted audience turns out to be rather well-capitalized itself. Some 28% of Google Docs & Spreadsheets users earn more than $100,000 annually and 76% earn at least $50,000 annually. Evidently, the ability to pay doesn't diminish the appeal of something free.
Despite the growing popularity of online productivity applications, Stewart doesn't see Google or other online office app providers threatening Microsoft anytime soon. "Eventually, Web-based productivity tools could become as widespread as traditional software from companies like Microsoft," he said, "but they clearly have little to fear in the immediate future, given the relatively low penetration numbers that we're seeing."