Stan Beer is singularly unimpressed with the beta of Google's online spreadsheet program.
Just for the fun of it, let's suppose that this new Google product does somehow gain the functionality and performance to start matching it with Excel. Will that mean that Microsoft will lose many of its customers overnight? Not at all. Open Office.org has a free spreadsheet that is largely compatible with Excel and arguably almost as good. The same can be said for its word processor. Yet people still stick with their Microsoft Office products. They're just that little bit better and, for most users, that one per cent or two of incompatibility is not worth the hassle for a few hundred bucks, especially if you're a business that has years of intellectual capital tied up in your office documents. Even Google itself says that it's not trying to compete with Excel. The implication is that Google Spreadsheet is for the casual user. But how many users do you know who have ever used a spreadsheet casually? For that matter, what exactly is the purpose of having an online wordprocessor? Local storage is so cheap and small, why would we even bother trying to do online what we can do locally?
Stan admits that the program might someday evolve into a serious competitor to MS Excel in the future, but he reminds us that "it sure isn't the present." Seems like a lot of journalists who have never seriously used a spreadsheet are working seriously working themselves into a premature slather. (No, putting your shopping list in cells does not constitute serious use.) Om Malik wonders, Is Google Wasting Its Genius Cycles?
That said, I like the idea of online word processing, and I have been checking out Writely and Thinkfree. When I draft a story, it normally goes through numberous iterations. I am neither bright nor diligent enough to properly network my home computers, so the idea of keeping a single set of drafts regardless of which computer I am using is appealing.