Google Docs Viewer Goes Mobile, But Where's The Editing?

Google this week rolled out new mobile viewing capabilities for cloud-based Google Docs files on Google Android smartphones and the Apple iPhone and iPad, but users are champing at the bit for the ability to edit on their mobile devices.

In a post on the Google Docs Blog, Google software engineer Mickey Kataria said Google is "releasing a mobile version of the Google Docs viewer for Android, iPhone and iPad." Users of those devices can now view documents including PDFs, Microsoft PowerPoint, .doc and .docx files that users uploaded to their documents list without having to download them first.

The mobile viewer also lets users switch between pages and pan/zoom within a page. On the iPhone and iPad, users can pinch to zoom in or out.

The mobile version of the Google Docs viewer comes on the heels of Google updating its standard Google Docs offering and letting users view Microsoft Word documents that are received as attachments in Gmail with a single click, meaning they don't have to download, save and open files when they want a quick view of a document. The update also adds .doc and .docx support to the Google Docs viewer. And if users want to edit the file, clicking the "edit online" button will open it in Google Docs or users can download it to the desktop from there.

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The lack of editing capabilities in Google's new mobile viewer, however, has raised the ire of some users who want to edit documents from their smartphones and tablets.

"Reading is all well [and] fine, but when will we see editing on mobile devices? It's bloody silly that iPad can't do even so much as add text," one commenter wrote under Google's announcement of the mobile viewer.

Another wrote: "I can't wait to hear about editing for documents on my Android. It's really the only thing that's missing from my phone."

And one particularly angered commenter wrote: "[I] don't care a thing about viewing Docs on my mobile device. I want to edit docs from my iPhone. ... Docs is pretty useless to me until I have that."

Google has been positioning Google Docs as a true contender to productivity application leader Microsoft and its Office offerings. Google and Microsoft are butting heads in the cloud computing arena, among other areas. Google has made a strong name for itself in the cloud, and it's partly Google Docs' success and affordability that have helped forge that path. And Google continues to update Google Docs to make it a stronger rival to its software giant nemesis. Cloud-based Google Docs also got an edge earlier this year, when Google added the ability to store all types of files online in Google Docs, including Microsoft Office documents.

Microsoft also sees Google as a true cloud foe. Earlier this year, Microsoft released Office 2010 Web Apps as part of Office 2010, a component of Office that makes some standard Office document capabilities available in the cloud. Web Apps was seen as a direct swipe at Google Docs.

Yet when Microsoft officially launched the business version of Microsoft Office 2010 last month, Google staged a pre-emptive strike, urging users to avoid upgrading from Office 2007 to Office 2010 and leverage Google Apps and Google Docs instead. Google claimed Office 2010 lacks many of the basic collaborative capabilities cloud computing affords.

Microsoft quickly fought back, countering Google's claim.