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Microsoft, Google On Office Computing Collision Course

By the end of this year, both companies will find themselves on the same fundamental office computing architecture: a hybrid approach that supports both desktop- and browser-based office computing.

The argument between Microsoft and Google over which offers the best approach to office application computing is over. If you look down on the two companies' desktop- vs. browser-based office application strategies from a 20,000 foot level, they are fundamentally the same, and the differences are in the fine print.

Three years ago, Google saw a future in browser-based office computing, put the blinders on (to desktop-based office computing) and plowed forward with its vision. At the same time, Microsoft was incredulous when it came to the idea of browser-based office computing, insisting that the novelty would wear off and that when the honeymoon was over, desktop office computing would prevail unscathed.

Today, both companies are telling completely different stories, each essentially involving concessions that the other is at least partially right. In acquiring DocVerse and improving interoperability between Google Docs and Microsoft Office, Google has conceded that organizations have certain power users whose needs might never be fully satisfied by browser-based office applications.

In launching browser-based versions of its Office suite, Microsoft has conceded that the desktop versions are probably overkill for certain users and that IT management could use the reduced management complexity that comes with delivering Office in a browser.

The net result is that, by the end of 2010, both companies will have collided on the same fundamental office computing architecture: a hybrid approach that supports both desktop- and browser-based office computing.

In fact, in both cases, the browser-based applications are inextricably linked to the underlying collaborative infrastructures offered by both companies. For example, wherever they're deployed, Microsoft's "Office Web Apps" will always be provisioned to business users from a Sharepoint server (either on-premises, hosted, or from Microsoft's cloud using the standard, multi-tenant edition of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite 2010, which isn't due out until the end of 2010).

Likewise, with Google Docs, the browser-based office applications are provisioned to business users from Google Apps. Both Sharepoint and Google Apps include the underlying infrastructure to make document collaboration possible. In both cases, to get the browser-based applications, you have to take the infrastructure as well. (This is so even if you don't envision certain users of browser-based applications collaborating with one another.)

In terms of your technology roadmap, there's huge relevance to the way both Microsoft and Google have inextricably integrated their browser-based functionality into their collaborative infrastructures in such a way that buying one means getting the other. The relevance has to do with any third-party collaborative or document management systems that you might be considering to augment your overall Office application architecture.

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