Tag Archives: Google

The Consumerization Of Office

Today, Google announced the acquisition of Quickoffice.  For those who don’t know, Quickoffice is arguably one of the better office productivity suites currently available for mobile platforms (also check out OfficeSuite 6 by MobiSystems). Quickoffice allows users to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office compatible Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Quickoffice is available cross-platform on Android, iOS, and Symbian.

In the void created by the absence of a mobile version of Microsoft Office, Quickoffice has taken a strong leadership position. However, until yesterday this was done so (not to detract from the product) by an upstart company that could be competitively explained away; my how the stakes have changed. With the acquisition, it has moved from an interesting gap filling measure to a strategic threat from a competitor who doesn’t lack in cash, competition, or cause. Make no bones about it; Google has its competitive sights on Microsoft Office via the mobile platform. (They also bought DocVerse a few months back ) If there wasn’t already immense pressure in Redmond to get a cross-platform mobile version of their popular Office suite out, it just doubled.

First, from a competition perspective, all mobile enterprise office productivity discussions will be framed through the lens of a Google/Microsoft battle. The temptation to turn this into a clash of the titans is just too great for tech writers to avoid doing so.  Second, the functionality Microsoft offers will have to be, at a minimum, at least what Quickoffice offers. Based on Microsoft’s ability to deliver mobile capabilities of other Microsoft products I have some real reservations. OneNote for Android is barebones, as is the Lync client. Microsoft doesn’t yet have the track record to deliver fantasist mobile apps outside of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft seems to be perpetually behind on the mobile front.

However, the biggest challenge Microsoft faces isn’t Google, but rather the consumer. Consumers have come to expect in the mobile arena that they call the shots.  I would even go so far as to say they feel entitled to call the shots (not that it is always a good thing). This is expressed in the enterprise as the Consumerization of IT. The Consumerization of IT denotes the idea that technology shouldn’t be overly complex. It should be something that the average consumer can understand. When you combine the sense of entitlement with the Consumerization of IT, the end result is often manifested with end users doing an end-run around the IT department to use the apps and devices they like best. My good friend, Philippe Winthrop, Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, calls it the IT-ization of the Consumer.  This attitude, coupled with a product from a viable competitor, should set off major alarm bells in Redmond.

Microsoft is in danger of having consumers do an end-run around Office – call it the Consumerization of Office. With a solid enterprise office suite alternative (provided Quickoffice can deliver the Track Changes functionality) Microsoft will quickly lose one of their greatest strongholds in the enterprise.  Without a similar product offering by Microsoft, the acquisition of Quickoffice by Google only hastens this loosening of the grip of Microsoft Office dominance in the enterprise. While Microsoft continues to develop their offering on the sidelines, Google has a staggering advantage to secure market share.

Mobile consumers have demonstrated time and again they will abandon the dominant paradigm en masse in favor of functionally that is available now rather than wait for the old guard to catch up. Users want/need/must perform office productivity tasks on their mobile devices and they are finding workarounds wherever they can. The greater the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise, the more of a requirement it will be to consume office documents from those devices.  Savvy consumers are not going to sit around and wait for Microsoft to provide the solution when an alternative is in front of them.  The question that remains is – How will Microsoft respond and will it be substantial enough and in-time to satiate the empowered consumer?

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.


Filed under Apps, Mobile, Productivity

How Mobile Phones Will Make You Smarter

I had a teacher in Jr. High who was rather crotchety. He held strong opinions on many a social ill.  I am pretty sure his daily complaints were the real joy in his life. One of his habitual rants that stuck in my head centered on the fact that calculators made our minds dull. He called it the “idiot box”. He didn’t want us to use calculators as it was certain that our mental faculties would deteriorate.  I always thought his diatribe was rather misplaced as I found the calculator an invaluable tool to get the job done and move on with life.

The problem with his sentiment boils down to identifying what is the meaning of intelligence. (As a side note if you haven’t read Jeff Hawkins’ book On Intelligence it is a must. The implications for computing are enormous.) Much the same way we learn to read by first learning letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then finally books, our intelligence leverages the little things we already know to work with larger thoughts and ideas.  The ability to synthesize a hypothesis – extrapolate from what we already know- is the hallmark of intelligence.

I recently read an article by Steve Olenski regarding How Google Affects Our Memory. His concern is the decline in our ability to recall data because of having easy access to the data. However, I see this as a concern that doesn’t really matter. The long-term goal isn’t to recall facts but to formulate ideas.  Much like my Jr. High teacher, the fallacy in the article is misappropriating the value of the data – as if the data by itself has value. But data without concepts to tie it together is meaningless bits. For example, is it more important to remember the dates of the civil war or the fundamental concepts of the cause of conflict, what it says about human nature, and how not to repeat it?  Is it more important to remember a person’s contact information or a better way of interacting with them?

Steve Olenski is right – the internet, Google, and mobile device are most assuredly affecting our cognitive process – but in many positive ways. I for one welcome this new ‘idiot box’ I carry in my pocket. It functions as a tool to retain facts for me that I consider the minor details. It gives me the mind space to work on higher-order problems. Not only that, I can access the data faster than ever and rule out false ideas from positive ones. Instead of looking for an encyclopedia I can spend time thinking about how mobility and the ability to access instantly many different data streams will take us to new places.

How about you – do you think the ability to use tools such as mobile devices, Google, and the internet help make us smarter?


Filed under Mobile