Microsoft Office 2010, Google Target Small Biz


BOSTON (TheStreet) — Forget McGruber. Now we've got MicGoogle — Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) and Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) are seemingly accidentally creating a bona fide small-business action hero.

Last week, after nearly a year of open development and industry trials, software giant Microsoft shipped Microsoft Office 2010. (Betas are free. Downloaded Office and Student editions start at $119. Professional versions touch $499.)

As I said in my initial review, Office 2010 is a reasonable, if pricey, upgrade from Office 2007. It offers improved security, collaboration and mobile integration. Cloud computer hipsters may shriek, but the fact is, Office 2010 has small-biz game.

Thing is, now that the product is in the flesh, the small-business office software market has taken an interesting turn. About two months ago, Google rolled out a fully redone version of its Web-based office Google Apps products and a third-party app marketplace. These upgrades not only make Google Apps run faster and easier, but Google claims they more directly support Microsoft Office content.

The idea? Google wants small businesses to use its code along with Microsoft's.

"We really do see that Google Apps can work hand-in-hand with existing Microsoft Office deployments," Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager for Google Apps told me during a recent hands-on demo down at the Google office on New York City's 9th Ave.

To get a better feel for whether Google has lost its small-business mind, my little digital world actually deployed both Microsoft Office 2010 and Google Apps side by side, for a little over six months.

Here is what you need to know.

What you get: As nutty as it sounds, MicroGoogle or GoogleSoft, or whatever you want to call this accidental two-for-one deal, is not a bad idea.

Running Google Apps and Microsoft Office together is far from perfect — more on that in sec — but without question there is unparalleled power in having both in your business. A fully functioning Microsoft Office package that runs on a desktop computer ensures that you can control and deliver top-quality documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the formats of choice for more than 450 million Microsoft users. And running Google's cloud-based Apps package really does open that data to unparalleled Web collaboration, data back-up, device flexibility and mobile support. The trick is learning to hand off data from one platform to the other — that is, doing things like importing documents, syncing calendars and coordinating contacts across your team and both piles of code.

It takes a good bit of tinkering, but once you figure out how to hand off tasks between packages, you'll wonder how you lived without both of them.

MicGoogle Office Apps 2010, or whatever you like to call it, is that big a deal.

What you don't get: Oh, this is miles from the final software solution.

As much as Microsoft and Google posture that each of their tools can effortlessly integrate Web-based computing and desktop office software, that's just plain nonsense. Yes, Microsoft gets points for its new Web Apps features, like its beta of on Facebook and its remote file sharing on SkyDrive. But these tools can still be terribly clumsy.

For all of Google's talk about integrating your data across everything from word processing to presentations, even basic stuff like contact management and calendaring were almost never entirely correct. One conference call we had with a phone conferencing app called ZipDX took a call to the developer to fix.

Nothing can change how complex this code is. And how tough it is to properly debug.

Bottom line: I know, I know. The notion of understanding, installing and getting everyone to learn both Microsoft Office and Google Apps seems like a trip to the dentist with lots of drilling. But the fact is, the combining of these tools has put a data platform in my shop that rivals companies a thousand times our size. And there's no ignoring that.

Yes, tooling up to run GoogleSoft Apps 2010 Office, or whatever you want to call it, will send you back to school. But, trust me. It will be worth it.

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