Google Faces a Tall Order in MS Office Challenge

Looking at the prospect of a
Google office suite
, and at how that package might
in competition with Microsoft’s Office, requires at least a five-point examination.

A credible competitor for Microsoft’s Office must offer good answers to questions concerning application design, user training, enterprise process customization, data control and client computer support.

Whatever Microsoft’s recent sins may have been in the realm of anti-competitive behavior, the company unquestionably earned its edge in the market for mainstream office applications on graphical user interface machines.

Two decades ago, Microsoft made major investments of talent and time in creating its Word and Excel for the Macintosh, in the brief but exciting epoch when only Apple’s machine offered a mass-market testbed for interactive ideas that had never before been realized on an affordable PC.

Whether the Mac owes its continuing viability to Microsoft’s investments is perhaps the Mac community’s most inconvenient and uncomfortable truth.

Microsoft annoyed some members of the Macintosh community (this writer among them) by putting a higher priority on innovation than on conformance with platform conventions.

For example, Microsoft Word 3.0 on the Macintosh pioneered interactive customizable menus in the late 1980s, but in the process it violated the standard Macintosh mechanism for putting the contents of menus in standardized resource files.

Very quickly, though, there were more Word users benefiting from Microsoft’s more accessible customization methods than there had ever been Macintosh users who actually altered menu content or behavior with Apple’s standard but cryptic tools.

Microsoft has continued to set application design standards—in the sense of defining what people expect, if not always what people like—with its Office applications and their “Insert Object” and “Paste Special” and “Tools | Options” commands.

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