Google Drive Threatens Microsoft's Footprint on Enterprise Tablets

By | Sep 14, 2012

The Microsoft Office suite has dominated both the home market and enterprise space for many years, with few inroads made by competitors such as OpenOffice and Google Docs. Microsoft's continued dominance of the desktop is finally being tested, however, as the "desktop" increasingly lives on user-owned tablets or smartphones--a universe dominated by rivals Apple and Google. While the tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system marks an effort to even the playing field for the Redmond-based giant, a recent announcement about Google Drive shows how Microsoft still lags behind in innovating for the tablet market.

Office Productivity for Free, on a Tablet

As announced on Google's official blog, iOS users of the Google Drive app can now edit Google documents--a functionality previously only available to Android users. This brings to the more than 400 million iOS devices sold to date the ability to create word processing documents, save them for free to cloud storage, organize them into folders, and allow others to collaborate from the comfort of their iPads. They join 400 million Android devices that already have this ability.

Another feature upgrade for both platforms is the ability to view Google Presentations, which are the equivalent of Microsoft's PowerPoint presentations. Future Android and iOS updates promised by Google include the ability to collaborate in real time with Google's spreadsheets.

As of this writing, the only Office functionality offered by Microsoft for iOS and Android is its OneNote product, giving Google free reign to attract users seeking a way to perform word processing tasks on their tablets and smartphones.

Small and Midsize Businesses Must Adjust

For midsize businesses that might have depended nearly exclusively on the Microsoft Office Suite in the past, the fact that Google has jumped ahead of Microsoft in editing functionality on tablets can mean an unintentional move to the cloud--whether these companies ever intended to go there or not.

The reason is that the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend continues to build steam. When workers can collaboratively work on documents and spreadsheets with free software and storage, it is inevitable that they will leverage Google's easy cloud service on their sleek new iPads, usable anywhere from airplanes to coffee shops, rather than continue to be limited to working with clunky, company issued computers typically chained to desks.

Rather than fear this inevitable transition, it might make more sense for SMBs to embrace this trend, as the savings in hardware and software licensing can be substantial--offset slightly by necessary spending on employee endpoint security which the BYOD trend is rapidly accelerating. IT managers should also plan for expenses related to centralized mobile device management (MDM) solutions and employee education about the changing mobile security landscape.

Midsize businesses take note: The office productivity cloud is coming to a tablet near you. Make sure your IT staff has a plan to stay on top of this development.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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