A week ago, ReadWriteWeb published an interesting poll, entitled, "Poll: Which Web Office Suite Would You Pay For? Adobe or Google?" At the moment, out of 519 votes cast, 22% (114 votes) were for Adobe, 38% (199 votes) were for Google, and the greatest percentage, 40% (206 votes) were for neither. A number of commenters took the article to task for failing to point out ThinkFree and Zoho, two startups that offer productivity suites. ReadWriteWeb replied, "...we intentionally left them out so as not to dilute the vote between the two companies that are arguably industry giants as opposed to (awesome!) startups."
The problem with such open polls is you never really know the survey universe--it could include some Adobe or Google employees, hoping to tilt the results; it could include many respondents from SMBs, rather than large enterprises; and so on. Probably the more interesting part of the article is the comments, as they highlight many of the viewpoints I hear from clients. Here is a sampling:
- "The only office suite I'd *pay* for is Microsoft's. If it's online, it better be free. That's how the web works, ya know?"
- "They'll likely choose Microsoft's "cloud" version of Office, which will eventually be offered."
- "Google Apps for me. At around $50.00 per year for a Premium account, you really can't compare that to Adobe's. Google provides a robust and stable platform for my business needs."
- "Google has demonstrated a solid commitment to the Apps offering with continuous improvement. The Acrobat apps have been very slow to materialize and seem to emphasize form over function.With the exception of heavy spreadsheeting, Google Apps are just about ready for primetime. The sharing features really change the game from MS Office."
- "If I wasn't such a dedicated Google user I would definitely want to check out this Adobe Suite. Google Docs has been great for the last few years, but the product has hardly advanced over this time. It is getting frustrating dealing with the same problems this long. Maybe it is time to see what Adobe has got.."
- "The performance of any online productivity suite will be awful compared to a native desktop app. I highly doubt anyone will shell out money for a cloud based app when MS Office is so reasonably priced and works so well. That being said, if I had to choose between the two, I would pick Adobe. They have been making software much longer than Google, and their products speak for themselves."
- "A discussion on the best office suite without mentioning Zoho is like talking about the best basketball player who ever played without mentioning Jordan."
- "Zoho gets my vote. Their spreadsheet and docs apps kill Google Apps."
- "I certainly do not need an online office suite. I have everything I need right here on my computer. I feel that my privacy would be threatened if I used online office suites. The less personal and business information I have online, the better. And why should I trust that these big Internet companies won't change their privacy policies in the future."
So let's sit back and discern the pattern here. One commenter votes for the incumbent, Microsoft, and its forthcoming online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. You have one commenter say Google has continually improved Google Apps; you have the next commenter say "the product has hardly advanced." Others point out that Zoho is the functionality leader; the last commenter says he'd never use an online suite.
The pattern here is there is no pattern. This market is so new and volatile that there is no accepted wisdom on where to go (which is why I'm writing reports on the current state of the online and offline productivity suites so companies can get their bearings.) Perhaps the only pattern is that people are talking about options to Microsoft Office--something they never did four years ago.