Photo: AP Images
One has to admire the pluck and determination of the Google Apps team.For the last few years now, they’ve claimed that the world is about to move from bloated old Microsoft Office to the new all-Web anytime-access world of Google Apps. It’s an appealing vision for anybody who’s ever cursed the complexity and slow start-up times of Office, and Google has not been shy about proclaiming its wins.
The problem is, the company never quite gets around to sharing the statistics that would prove this trend is actually happening.
How much revenue does Google make from Apps? Unknown, but it’s less than $1 billion a year.
How many companies or users are using the paid versions versus the free versions? Google won’t say.
What’s the breakdown between consumer, small-to-mid-size business, and enterprise use? Google doesn’t share those statistics.
Are customers really “switching” to Google Apps, or are they coming at it by way of Gmail, with individuals and teams within companies occasionally using it as an add-on to Office? Google is careful never to claim that Office is being thrown out the door.
Come on. Is this a real business or not?
When pressed, Google Docs product manager Jonathan Rochelle acknowledged today that the product still has gaps versus Office. It can’t handle huge files — something Rochelle says needs to be fixed soon. It has some challenges with revision tracking — as more people collaborate on a document, it gets harder (and more important) to make sure you know who’s changing what. It could use stronger APIs for developers to write really sophisticated apps on top of Google’s platform.
Full offline functionality and an improved interface for touch screen tablets are on the improvement list as well. The company is also considering making installable native versions of Google Apps for Android — and maybe even the iPad (although this would be a huge resource commitment, and Rochelle wouldn’t say “yes” to the idea).
But Rochelle also said that IT managers are finally coming around to the idea that desktop apps may not be necessary. Security isn’t the big concern it used to be. Users are demanding that they can get access to their data from any device.
Fine. If 2011 is finally the year of Google Apps, then let’s see some real statistics proving it.