Schools across the country have been embracing Google Apps with open arms. Places like Vanderbilt have jumped into the cloud with both feet, putting their e-mail, presentations, and sharing on applications run by the Google cloud.
As of today, Microsoft is vying to bite off a big chunk of this market. With billions of dollars at stake, Microsoft unveiled Office 2010 today. Google is not sitting idly by; they just suggested that Office 2007 users should “upgrade” to Google Docs instead of Office 2010. Still, with an enormous existing base of business Office users, Microsoft will undoubtedly benefit from its incumbent position in the marketplace. Nor have things been totally rosy for Google Docs uptake lately, with Yale University and UC Davis recently dumping the search giant’s cloud services over privacy and security concerns.
Schools will benefit from this war as competition has raised the stakes for both companies. It is now in both Microsoft and Google’s interest to tailor their applications and offerings towards schools looking to migrate to the cloud. In other words, Google will be more than likely to adjust prices if Microsoft can offer a competing product at a lower or similar price.
Office 2010 includes a number of new features, among them a redesigned menu system, improved inline multimedia editing, real-time collaboration, improved security settings and — perhaps the biggest of them all — a cloud-based web apps component that aims to compete with Google Docs.
The online component of Office 2010 includes web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. They’re largely positioned as companion apps to their full desktop counterparts, making them arguably less powerful as standalone services than existing cloud champions Google Docs or Zoho.
Nevertheless, a number of schools are embracing Google services in order to reap all the advantages that come with productivity in the cloud. Will the online component of Microsoft Office 2010 be enough to stave off the competition from Google, Zoho and others? It remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a sign of the times that the once staunchly desktop-chained Office suite has put its head firmly into the cloud.
-With help from Mashable, thumbnail courtesy NY Times
A look at the Google-created comparison chart: