Google Shows Up Microsoft With Office Cloud Improvements

Google is putting a cloud collaboration clobbering on Microsoft Office, unlocking tag-teaming capabilities in desktop-based Office applications through a new Google Apps connector.

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which the cloud computing and search giant made available Thursday, adds long desired cloud collaboration capabilities to traditional Microsoft Office desktop apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Google said.

"We're bringing multi-person, simultaneous editing to the Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications that coworkers may still need from time to time," wrote Shan Sinha, Google Apps product manager, in a blog post around the launch of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office.

Sinha wrote that Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is available as a 3 MB plug-in to all Microsoft Office users worldwide and lets two or more people work together and collaborate on the same file at the same time in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on Windows PCs.

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"For example, you can edit a Word document's table of contents from Dublin while coworkers adjust formatting and make revisions from Denver. Instead of bombarding each other with attachments and hassling to reconcile people's edits, your whole team can focus on productive work together," Sinha wrote. "Google Cloud Connect vastly improves Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, so companies can start using Web-enabled teamwork tools without upgrading Microsoft Office or implementing SharePoint 2010."

Microsoft did not respond to a request to comment by press time.

Google gave a sneak preview of Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office late last year and the plug-in became generally available Thursday. Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is the fruit of Google's DocVerse acquisition last year. DocVerse made a plug-in that adds Web-based collaboration to Microsoft Office desktop applications.

"Users of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 can sync their Office documents to the Google cloud, without ever leaving Office. Once synced, documents are backed-up, given a unique URL, and can be accessed from anywhere (including mobile devices) at any time through Google Docs," Sinha wrote in a November 2010 blog post introducing Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. "And because the files are stored in the cloud, people always have access to the current version."

Sinha said that that Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office allows Office users to get cloud collaboration capabilities without the need to upgrade to Microsoft Office 365, which is based on Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

"Specifically, Office 365 will not offer collaboration for Office 2003 and 2007 users, requiring your install base to be upgraded to Office 2010 if these collaboration capabilities are necessary," Sinha said. "Office 365 also will not support collaboration in the desktop version of Excel. Nor will it support collaboration in the Web versions of Word and PowerPoint. Google Apps plus Cloud Connect offers a complete solution for customers."

Google Cloud Connect For Microsoft Office Latest Blow In Cloud Competition

The launch of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is the latest blow in a back and forth battle between Google and Microsoft to control cloud computing and collaboration.

Microsoft has been trumpeting its cloud computing capabilities and rebranded its cloud offerings under the Microsoft Office 365 umbrella, Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) of cloud computing applications rebranded and containing Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online.

The cloud computing kerfuffle between the two has sparked a bout of one-upmanship as Google and Microsoft duke it out for high-profile engagements and customers.

The two companies have also battled to control cloud-based e-mail and collaboration, with Google offering tools to migrate Microsoft Exchange and Outlook users to Google Apps. And their contentious cloud combat has sparked a war of words, with Microsoft saying Google's heart isn't in cloud computing.

The competition has also led to litigation, with Google winning an injunction that put the brakes on a nearly $60 million cloud computing contract Microsoft won for the U.S. Department of Interior. Google claims that the bidding process for the government body's cloud-based e-mail and collaboration system was skewed to favor Microsoft and that Google was not part of a competitive bidding process for the contract and documents were written to ensure Microsoft took home the deal.

NEXT: Google Gives Resellers Customer Cloud Onramp

Along with the official release of Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, Google Thursday also launched a new program to give businesses a taste of cloud computing and collaboration. Dubbed the "90-Day Appsperience" the program covers 90 days of unlimited use of Google Apps collaboration plus hands-on support from Google for a nominal fee, Google said. The program also features a new collaboration dashboard in the Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Education control panels to highlight productivity savings and provide activity metrics to administrators.

"The Appsperience program allows businesses the opportunity to test drive the collaboration portions of our suite including Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video and Google Cloud Connect," Sinha said. "After the 90 days, businesses can decide whether they would like to fully license Google Apps and if that's the case, they would pay the standard fee of $50 per user per year, including the option to deploy Gmail."

Sinha added that the 90-Day Appsperience program is a win for resellers, as they will have a hand in each Appsperience trial.

"It is worth noting that our resellers are 100 percent involved throughout each Appsperience instance," Sinha said. "Partners work directly with each participating business during the 90-day trial and if a business chooses to continue using Google Apps, the customer will continue to work with their reseller partner."