Documents, Not Just Operating Systems, Are Key to Mobility

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • A successful mobility campaign for collaboration players requires attention be paid to document synchronization, editing, and sharing.
  • These documents must follow users across multiple platforms and devices, not just in number but in kind.

Many of us in the analyst industry have watched momentum in the battle for the desktop swing back and forth between various operating systems, favoring from time to time brands such as Microsoft, Apple, and even Linux.  However, at all times in this ever-evolving battlefield, Microsoft has held the one key necessary to unlock (read, dominate) the enterprise.  That key, which has remained tucked up securely in the pocket of one Mr. Bill Gates from Redmond, Washington, is Microsoft Office.

It’s strange but perhaps inevitable then that productivity documents should become the battlefield itself.  Thanks to the swift ascendancy of mobility as a driving force within the collaboration marketplace (second only to the ideals of social networking), the ability to synchronize documents between desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone and the means to then share and co-edit those documents within the context of business processes are now of the utmost importance for competitors.

Right now, Google and Microsoft are leading this charge in the enterprise.  Microsoft’s recently unveiled Office 2013 preview showcased a revolutionary (for Microsoft) new subscription licensing option tied to an accompanying cloud-centric delivery method for Office.  Plying SharePoint Online and SkyDrive as document repositories, Office 2013 users can move and engage seamlessly with content across as many as five different devices (at present, all Microsoft PCs and mobile devices).  A document edited on a Windows 8 tablet, for example, will appear in its current, edited state on a laptop or office PC.  The same holds true for application settings and document templates, which will presumably flow seamlessly from device to device.  Through this notion of moving Office almost entirely to the cloud (Office applications are virtualized and streamed as a service via Office 365) and tying Office tightly with Windows 8, Microsoft hopes to retain its physical dominance on the desktop while paving a path forward in the cloud.

Conversely, Google is moving from the cloud to the desktop, releasing native clients this June for its expanded Google Drive service, which now works hand in hand with Google Docs (as well as other services such as Google+ Hangouts) to achieve many of the same capabilities promised by Microsoft.  This includes offline editing, an area where Google has historically suffered in terms of capability.  Unlike Microsoft, which has as yet only paid lip service to client platforms other than the still unreleased Windows 8, Google has targeted Windows PC, Apple Mac, and iOS (iPhone and iPad), as well its own Chrome OS and Android.

True to its history, then, Microsoft’s vision for mobilized documents within Office 2013 is very Microsoft- and PC-centric.  Google, on the other hand, while able to preach a much more open solution, must do so with a comparatively limited set of document productivity features.  That may change as soon as Google puts into motion technology recently acquired from QuickOffice.  Likewise, Microsoft has promised equal support for the Apple Mac OS and iOS platforms alongside Windows.  This will ensure a rapid arms race between the two giants extending well into 2013, upon which we will keep a close eye.

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