Google Docs Use Growing Among Businesses

Enterprise use of Google Docs is growing, with and without the blessing of IT departments.
Google Docs, Google's online word processing application, is becoming more popular among business users. And research firm IDC believes Microsoft should be worried.

In July, IDC conducted a poll of 262 corporate executives and found that almost 20% of respondents said Google Docs was widely used in their organization, up from almost 6% in October 2007. In a research note, Melissa Webster, program VP at IDC for content and digital media technologies, characterized the usage increase as "impressive."

And Google Docs can expect further growth: 27% of respondents said that they were either already using Google Docs or expected to be doing so in the coming year.

This suggests Google's "Going Google" marketing campaign has been having the desired effect.

"Google continues to do well and grow and defy gravity a bit," Webster said in a phone interview. "They continue to try to grow their enterprise business. ...They're certainly pushing those products. I think some of the uptick is attributable to Google Apps Premium."

Google Apps Premium is Google's paid suite of online applications for businesses. It includes Google Docs, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Sites, and Gmail. The focus of the IDC poll was specifically on Google Docs.

Webster says that Google Docs is appealing because it makes collaboration easy. She adds that the growth of Google Docs isn't always happening with the oversight of corporate IT.

"We think a healthy percentage of Google Docs adoption is coming from ad hoc use that's extra-IT: It's the classic case of employees making use of free consumer Web 2.0 services to get their work done, without asking permission," she said in the research note. "In many organizations, IT is in the dark, or at least out of the loop."

IDC's survey supports that hypothesis, she says, noting that about 28% of line-of-business respondents reported using Google Docs widely, compared to just 15% of IT respondents.

Webster is quick to point out that Microsoft Office doesn't appear to be losing share to Google Docs: 97% of respondents acknowledged having one or more versions of Microsoft Office in use at their organizations.

But in the years ahead, Microsoft can't afford to be complacent. "Google's momentum could indirectly threaten some of Microsoft's Office 2010 upgrade revenue by providing buyers some negotiating leverage," she said. "And longer term, the two are on a collision course."

Webster says that IDC's October 2007 poll revealed that the percentage of respondents who said they planned to use Office 2007 was higher than the percentage of respondents this year who said they planned to use Office 2010.

Evidence that Microsoft is paying attention isn't hard to find: Microsoft on Thursday introduced a limited preview of Microsoft Office Web Apps, the company's answer to Google Docs and other online offerings that pose a challenge to the company's dominant desktop productivity suite.

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