New Google Tool Aims to Dull Microsoft’s PowerPoint

In yet another not-so-subtle challenge to the dominance of Microsoft’s Office software suite, Google announced on Tuesday that it will be adding presentation software to its Google Apps suite of office software.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced the new presentation software at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Due this summer, it will complement the word processing and spreadsheet software Google has already released.

Users of the Web-based Google Docs & Spreadsheets software can log in from any computer and collaborate, making simultaneous edits and changes to files. The new presentation component will add the ability to generate and share presentations, Schmidt said.

Microsoft’s Office products, on the other hand, must be installed on individual computers.

What Competition?

Schmidt reportedly downplayed the comparisons between Google Apps and Microsoft Office in his speech Tuesday, but he did say that Google Apps “seems to be a better fit of how people use the Web. For people who are using products on the Web who need presentation access and sharing … they are going to use this. This is a testament to the strength of Web 2.0.”

“Collaboration isn’t a feature,” added Sam Schillace, Google’s director of engineering. “It’s why the Web actually does change everything, by letting people work together anytime no matter where they are located. We’ve already freed teams from the burdens of version control and attachment overload when going back and forth on word processing documents and spreadsheets, so it just made sense to add a presentations feature to the mix. After all, when you create slides, you’re almost always going to share them.”

No Big Surprise

Google also announced Tuesday that it has acquired Tonic Systems, which specializes in collaborative presentation software. “They have some great technology for presentation creation and document conversion, and it will be a great addition as we add presentation sharing and collaboration capabilities to Google,” Schillace stated in the Google corporate blog.

“I’m not at all surprised,” Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, told TechNewsWorld. “Google recognized when they released Docs & Spreadsheets that the only hole was presentation software. I would expect they’d leverage some more features of Web 2.0.”

Regarding the threat to Microsoft, she added, “This will make it more difficult for people to make the decision to go with the next edition of Microsoft Office.”

The New Way of Working

Collaboration technologies in general are “accelerating and becoming increasingly important,” Gartner analyst Rita Knox told TechNewsWorld. “People have been accustomed to using Word, PowerPoint and Excel, but young companies, for example, could use this going forward to control costs and provide more transportability.”

In the end, “Office users may not necessarily switch quickly,” she noted, “because Google Apps is different and involves a different way of working. But more and more, people are becoming accustomed to staying on the Web when they work.”

Google is Microsoft’s biggest competitor now, vying for dominance in a lot of the same spaces, Knox said.

However, “Google understands computing on the Web, which I don’t think has been Microsoft’s forte,” she said. “Google’s taking aim at being big,” she added.

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