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A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Google Docs and Spreedsheets

Fellow blogger and my senior at B-School, Rajesh has raised some pertinent questions about Google Docs and Spreadsheets on his blog.

Here is my 2 cents worth of opinion on the issue.

First of all, I feel that to analyze Google Docs and Spreedsheets, target audience is not the ideal place to start. This recent service of Google is perhaps futuristic which will fulfill a need (still in nascent stage) which has the potential to become a want in a few years time for millions of people. And the key word perhaps is ‘collaboration’ which was mentioned at one point by Rajesh also. The world is shrinking, time zones are becoming irrelevant, and no one person is intelligent enough to tackle the emerging scenario. The emerging world and definitely the yet to emerge world would be dictated by synergy of minds spread across seven seas. Perhaps the only survival kit in future in such scenario is going to be COLLABORATION. Google Docs and Spreadsheet may be one of the baby steps in that direction that will aid collaboration.

Secondly, one of the offshoots of collaboration is going to be the death of software as we know it today. Collaborative platforms like open source software and confluence of minds from all across the world might send chill down the spines of the likes of Microsoft. In a few years time, as the open source community grows and collaboration becomes stronger and stronger, no body will go to purchase standard operating systems and software of the likes of MS-Windows and MS-Office. Either they would be downloadable for free or they would be working online without any installation on the hard disk of the system. This transformation is going to be aided by cheaper and widely available bandwidth in coming years making always-on connectivity a necessity for scores of people around the world.

Already many cities are planning to become wi-fi and, in say 5 years time, I can visualize many cities around the world becoming wi-fi giving always-on connectivity to people. The day may not be too far when the roti, kapda, aur makaan slogan may turn to roti, kapda, makaan aur broadband. I don’t think it’s a utopian fantasy considering the continuous flux the world is witnessing and the role connectivity is playing in various spheres of life and society. With such always-on and almost free connectivity, it is very likely that free internet based operating systems and software made possible by collaborative efforts of open source platform may replace both standard operating system and need of basic software.

So where does Google fit into all this. Simplistically, it is providing a free basic internet based software for real time collaboration from anywhere at anytime making the use of paid software almost redundant for basic computing needs. Apart from this, having ambition to own information, Google will in all likelihood get to see the contents of this service stored in its databases thereby giving it access to a vast universe of information that may continuously throw light on latest or emerging trends and also present Google with many new opportunities to tap.

Initiatives like Google Docs and Spreadsheets are all about empowerment, collaboration, connectivity, and freedom. Definitely, Google is playing a long term game which in short term may not make much sense. But just consider the market for word processors and spreadsheets and what will happen if 75% of these shifts online to services like Google Docs and Spreadsheet in 10 years timeframe. Planning to kill a monopolistic giant like Microsoft requires a visionary look into the future. Perhaps Google is seeing what remains invisible to the naked eyes of ordinary mortals like us.

Let’s see how the story unfolds.

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