The business behind Google Spreadsheet

Jun 8, 2006 01:40 · 467 words · 3 minute read

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.