Google Docs Infiltrates Microsoft Office

With Google Cloud Connect, you can use Office as your Google Docs client.
In the insect world, parasitic wasps inject larvae into certain caterpillars. The larvae feed on the caterpillars, turn them into zombies, and eventually devour them.

This may seem like an overly dramatic metaphor to use to describe Google's strategy for dealing with Microsoft, but the parallels are eerily similar. It's perhaps most evident in Google Chrome Frame, software that seizes certain page rendering functions from Internet Explorer 6 and replaces them with Chrome's JavaScript engine.

But it's also useful in understanding the technology Google acquired when it bought a startup called DocVerse in March. DocVerse made plugin software that enabled cloud-based collaboration in Microsoft Office applications Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Google on Monday plans to re-introduce the DocVerse software under a new name, Google Cloud Connect. The software, available for Windows computers in a limited preview, provides a way to use Office applications as clients that connect to Google's cloud.

"Users of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 can sync their Office documents to the Google cloud, without ever leaving Office," wrote DocVerse co-founder and Google group product manager Shan Sinha in a draft blog post provided by Google. "Once synced, documents are backed-up, given a unique URL, and can be accessed from anywhere (including mobile devices) at any time through Google Docs. And because the files are stored in the cloud, people always have access to the current version."

Microsoft, understandably, would prefer that its customers choose its cloud. Last month, it took steps to encourage that choice with the beta launch of Office 365, a hosted service that combines Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online. Office 365 starts at $6 per user per month, which is still higher than the $4 and change it costs per month to use Google Apps For Business.

Google's enterprise group has long been aware that it's not always possible to convince companies or employees to give up Microsoft Office, particularly if the relationship goes back for decades. Many companies that have become Google Apps customers have also kept Microsoft Office licenses. The City of Los Angeles, for example, a prominent Google Apps customer, conducted a study that suggested 20% of its employees would continue to use Office.

Google hopes to encourage Office users to inject its Cloud Connect code into Microsoft's software, in order to win them over from the inside.