Moving Your Office Online

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Whether or not you like Microsoft Office 2007, there is no debating that it dramatically changed the familiar Windows program’s look and feel. This dramatic change, coupled with the fact that users are growing increasingly comfortable working in online applications, provides an opportunity for online office suite vendors offering lower-cost alternatives to make some headway in the enterprise—but are these alternatives ready for the enterprise? It depends a great deal on your requirements, how much legacy content you have, and how much control you are willing to relinquish to the vendor.

Today, web-based office products have yet to make even a dent on Microsoft’s dominant market share (or even that of offline alternatives such as WordPerfect Office or StarOffice), but Kyle McNabb, an analyst at Forrester Research, does see room for these companies to at least make a splash—with Google having the best shot. "Google’s the one vendor of this group that can really look to influence people’s behaviors. If Google’s successful at getting people to use their online services—plus complement these services with offline support—then I think we’ll see a vendor start to take some material market share away from Microsoft. Still, by material market share I’m referring to 1% or slightly more," he says.

McNabb also points out that there could be a significant opportunity for a vendor that can find a way to combine all the aspects of a person’s digital life across the desktop and mobile environments. "People want to keep the information they need, and organize and access it, to make their lives simpler." He explains that with the proliferation of online and offline technology people often forget in which tool they left an email or document. "A vendor that simplifies the desktop productivity life of individuals will have the world as their oyster," McNabb speculates.

Each product in this overview offers at a minimum a word processor, spreadsheet, and a database, but each also offers at least some additional services such as email, file sharing, shared calendar, and a variety of other features. This is by no means a comprehensive look at these products, but it should give a sense of what is available and what you can get for your money.

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