Google is now providing free access to Writely, the online word processor it purchased in March. Is it a bold attempt to convert users to an online, non-Microsoft platform, or just part of a very long-term plan to change the world one niche market at a time?
New computer users and new small businesses could save a lot of money by adopting such a service, and the service might play well over time if Microsoft stops supporting existing versions of Office products, and users refuse to upgrade (even as the online services continue to improve). But it’s a very long road. Along with habit and a level of confidence in existing programs, there’s the reality that users, especially business users and the world of consultants who interact with them, rely on many Office features and the seamless exchange of files. A disruption in this flow would be painful, and for many unacceptable. It’s great to see the technology finally hitting its stride, but real change will still be a long time coming.