For at least five years, my preferred tools for writing and keeping track of my day were Google Docs and Google Calendar. I found them to be convenient, user-friendly and, because I use different PCs and laptops during the course of any one day, portable enough to use anywhere regardless of which computer was in front of me.
In late 2007, when I began doing more with my iPhone, I began to think differently about the great -- and free -- tools that Google had been providing me. Initially, I couldn't create or edit documents using Google Docs on my iPhone. I could access my Google Calendar through the iPhone's Safari Web browser, but it wasn't easy to read, move calendar items around, or share on the device. These were inconveniences, but not enough to cause me to think about ditching Google Docs or Google Calendar.
I still used them each on the PC. That is, until recently. I finally determined that in using Google Docs or Google Calendar, I needed to bend my work routine to what Google provided.
So what's changed?
Google's competitors, Microsoft and Apple, have grown their technologies to fit the way I work. When Apple launched iPad, it provided on Day One a version of its Pages word-processing app that allowed creation and editing of documents. Those documents are compatible with Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
When Microsoft launched Office 2010, it made sure that it was completely compatible with its online, hosted Office Live Sky Drive application, so when I create a document on one PC I can access it and work on it on another PC or my iPad.
Apple made such dramatic improvements, too, to its MobileMe iDisk, and Microsoft to its Office Live Sky Drive, that the more I've used mobile devices (like the iPhone and iPad), the more I've defaulted on the PC to Office 2010. I could save those documents to Sky Drive or iDisk and access them easily on the go.
Recently, as I've begun using a MacBook more and more, the mobile integration built into Office for Mac 2011 via either iDisk or Sky Drive has been just too superior to ignore.
As far as calendaring, the integration of Microsoft Exchange with iPhone and iPad platforms, along with MobileMe's calendar, also provides me with much more intuitive mobile access to calendar information -- to view, create and edit my schedule -- that is again far superior to anything Google has provided with Google Calendar. (The one difference is the ability to share Google Calendar information with others regardless of platform, which is a little better than with MobileMe.)
But even though the Google iPhone mobile app, which bundles Google's productivity services into a Web-friendlier interface, allows for almost equal functionality on the PC or mobile device, including the ability to create and edit documents on the iOS platform, Google still hasn't organized Docs or Calendar in a way that I find useful on the go.
Part of it is because Google is simply extending its browser-based approach to mobile devices rather than taking an app-based approach. Part of it is because Google merely extended its applications to the Web, but didn't improve on them in the process. And Part of it is because Google Docs on a Safari browser on an iPad is just clumsy in proportion to the iPad keyboard. Better alternatives were just available earlier.
Would I feel differently if I had settled on Android devices rather than Apple's iPhone and iPad for working on the go? Possibly. But the very fact that Google Docs and Google Calendar have been so kludgy on anything other than a desktop or notebook was, in fact, part of the entire decision to go with iOS for mobility rather than alternatives.
Google had me. Then it lost me.
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