Google takes logical next step

John Markoff’s had the nod

SAN FRANCISCO, June 5 — Stepping up its attack on Microsoft’s core business, Google plans to make available on Tuesday a test version of a Web-based spreadsheet program that is intended to make it simple to edit and share lists and data online.

The company said that the free program, called Google Spreadsheets, would be able to read and create files in the format used by Excel, the Microsoft spreadsheet software that is installed on millions of personal computers. The spreadsheet service is another step in Google’s steady march toward creating its own computing universe that is an alternative to desktop PC software now dominated by Microsoft. It comes just months after Google bought a small Silicon Valley company called Upstartle, creators of a Web-based word-processing program called Writely…

What took them so long?

Later…There’s lots of commentary in the Blogosphere today about what this signifies. The obvious interpretation is that Google is really attacking Microsoft. If it is, then it’s doing so in a really smart way, because it’s refusing to fight on Microsoft’s territory — which is the platform, i.e. the PC. Google has declined to compete in that space and is providing services on the Web which offer a severely limited amount of the functionality that Microsoft provides in its PC software. Nicholas Carr has an interesting post to this effect. Extract:

So why would Google put out a product that makes its arch-rival’s product more valuable? Because Google doesn’t want to compete with Office. It sees Office as part of the existing landscape, and it wants to build a new layer of functionality on top of that landscape. No one is going to stop buying Office because Google Spreadsheets exists. But what people may well do is use Spreadsheets for sharing Excel and other data online – rather than just emailing Excel files around, as they used to. If Google Spreadsheets competes with a Microsoft product, it competes with a Microsoft product that doesn’t yet exist: Excel Live, Microsoft’s own web interface for Excel data.