The business behind Google Spreadsheet

So, Google introduced a spreadsheet. It’s got cool collaboration features, and runs neatly within your browser. Of course, people are starting to be wary of Google potentially holding all of their information, which makes Google Spreadsheet a less likely holding spot for very sensitive information (and quite a few people put sensitive information in spreadsheets). That somewhat limits the number of people that will use the product.

Google currently makes almost all of their money from ads. Gmail’s ads work pretty well, but I don’t think a spreadsheet is going to fit the adword model. So, what’s the business case?

Some have surmised that Google is just drawing people in so that they spend all of their time in Google apps and hit as many ads as possible.

I think the plan is more direct than that. The great thing with blogs is that later we’ll be able to look back and see if I’m right about this.

Google has a collaborative spreadsheet, and they bought a word processor (Writely). They’ve got the beginnings of a database. Yes, they’re building an office suite.

“But”, the proverbial you asks, “who’s going to trust putting all of that data in Google’s data centers? And how do you pay for that?”

Google sells a search appliance. The IT guys buy it, stick it on their network and tell it what to crawl. Voila! Google search for your network.

That’s where I think these apps are going. Google’s going to perfect this software through the unwashed masses (the folks who work at home, like myself :). Then, they’ll release a box that you can drop on your internal network that provides the office suite capabilities for your entire office. The privacy concerns go away. They’d try to replace one half of the Microsoft tax with a more modest Google tax.

Of course, Google’s office suite will not be as powerful as Microsoft’s. But, I think they’ll meet the needs of a great many office workers, and they’ll be adding some excellent collaboration features along the way.

Google’s also good at running Linux boxes. I hear they’ve got a few. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also at some point release a box that helps you manage a bunch of Linux “web terminal” workstations. That would go after the other half of the Microsoft tax. I think that plot is a bit more distant, though, and has a lower probability than the Google Office Box (GOB) notion.

I could definitely imagine Google selling different sized GOBs, and they’d be able to give some really impressive collaboration capabilities to small offices that would otherwise be shut out of the cool stuff.

I hope I’m right about GOB, because it would be really interesting to see the directions that things go in from there.

8 thoughts on “The business behind Google Spreadsheet”

  1. I think Google is trying to cut off Microsoft’s “air supply” before Microsoft has the chance to do it to Google first. I don’t think the spreadsheet or word processor are about direct revenue (at least not for quite a while). Instead, they are about providing a reason NOT to upgrade to Microsoft Vista and the next version of Office, both of which will seriously damage Google’s current ad-based revenue by directing more clicks to Microsoft and MSN instead.

  2. I think that they are just starting out, getting us used to using apps on the internet. Once you have your data in an online spreadsheet then what’s to stop you linking that to your website or to your database or sharing it with your customers. Then search all your data using google technology. It’s about moving more data onto the Internet.

    Google Office is going to attact some companies as the ultimate outsourcing but they are going to want some security that it’s not going to disapear and so will pay for support and perhaps mangement a management interface.

    As for the thin client solution I think this is what the summer of code is all about. But not for Google Desktop but to try and level the playing field for alternative solutions to Microsoft on the desktop. I don’t think they are going to start selling Desktops any time soon but they just want enought alternatives out there that Microsoft can’t afford to lock them out.

  3. I wrote a comment saying the very same thing on Digg a couple days back. Yes, I think Google’s headed to the enterprise with this a-la Google Mini.

  4. I don’t think people doubt Google privacy that much, actually, I think Google is taking care of this “privacy” issue because 1) it can ruin their business and 2) microsoft is almost ruined by this reason. Also, if you want to run your company on Google servers, you may ask them a contract/agreement and then enforce it by law.

    About Google Boxes/Appliances, what we see is people moving servers and IT infrastructure from their company to data centers… and Google is good at data center, they have really good sysadmins and automated upgrade system. We can really notice that with new Google offer: Corporative GMail. You can have your domain mail delivered and handled by Google, with private GMail and GTalk. This is still in beta, but I already see some momentum in this field…

    About new Office applications (Spread Sheet and Text/Word Processor), most companies use these for simple things, most of them is internal documents that should be filled and delivered to some other mate. This could fit really well Google’s approach, instead of .xls and .doc among mailboxes, just links to shared documents, with version/revision control enabled. Also, as everything is HTML and links, you can easly embed them everywhere… no need for COM or KParts or complex inter-process stuff.

    Last, but not least, I think we will see an application to create simple forms and databases, something like Microsoft Access, but easier to use… I wonder something like Google Page, with Data Base support. As I said, most companies use Spread Sheets and Text Processors to document internal requests and processes… because writing Excel spread sheets are much easier than Access applications… but if Google can make something as easy, then people will use the correct tool for the job.

  5. When I first encountered a promotion for Google Docs and Spreadsheets Beta version after logging out of my AdWords account I was skeptical. Could this application really offer all the benefits of software like MS Word and Excel in a web-based format? The fact that Google has been developing a few other very impressive web-based applications lately convinced me to at least give it a try. Google did not let me down, it does everything they claimed it would do, and does it very effectively. The fact that you can create a spreadsheet online, not only upload them from your hard drive, is my favorite feature. It is especially impressive that you are able to use the same formulas as in MS Excel directly on the web-based spreadsheet.

    Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a great collaboration tool. I can see it making a huge impact. However, I see this impact being for more simple collaboration needs. Students will probably use it more than any other group. It seems great for sending homework to yourself, working on assignments on various computers (in a library, computer lab, or other public computer labs common to academic campuses), and even for small companies with very simple collaboration needs.

    I do not, however, see this solution being implemented for large-scale collaboration. It lacks high-level database structuring, key reporting features, certain access control privilege settings, advanced search and are necessary for it to become a complete enterprise business solution. Nevertheless, I can only think of one application that has all these features; it could be called “Google Docs and Spreadsheets on steroids.� This web-based software, Interneer Intellect, would probably be more appropriate for mid-to-large sized organizations looking for a web-based collaboration solution. However, Intellect lacks the ability to create spreadsheets online. It does integrate with MS Excel, Access and Project to make up for that.

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