That tricksy Google is at it again. A few months ago they bought web-based word processor Writely; now they're launching a web-based spreadsheet with the ability to read Excel files. While the software is only available to a limited number of people at the moment, the move has every analyst and his mother buzzing that Google's going head-to-head with Microsoft, challenging the dominance of Office.
Hold your horses there, cowboys. Let's think this through. Yes, Google has released a couple of components more at home in a traditional productivity suite, but that hardly means they're going after Microsoft Office. There are other spreadsheets out there, and there are plenty of word processors too, but the only reason people see this as targeting Redmond is because it's Google doing it.
But when we're talking about Google (as with any business) the question at hand has to be: how does this support the company's core business? And in Google's case, that core business is? Nope, not search. Google's core business is advertising . Whatever helps them sell advertising. So we ask ourselves: is there a way that web-based word processing and spreadsheets help them sell advertising? Why, yes! Like with GMail, Google can scan through the contents of your files and send you advertising based on what you're writing about (or tabulating).
Will Google Spreadsheets and the presumably forthcoming Google word processor challenge Office? Maybe, but there are anumber of barriers in the way: neither is as full-featured as its respective Office component (not necessarily a bad thing; Office has gotten on the bloated side), and both are dependent on a net connection. Plus, there's the natural reluctance of people to store their sensitive documents outside of their realm of control: you won't see corporations using Google Spreadsheet any more than you'll see them using GMail.