When I interviewed Google Apps product manager Rishi Chandra, Burton Group analyst Guy Creese and several happy users of Google Apps for a story I did last January, they all touted Apps' collaboration capabilities. Said one of the happy users, Doug Cone, director of business development for Nullvariable Web Consulting:
I spent this morning in a coffee shop using Google Docs to work on a document with someone on two different laptops. You just can't do that with (Microsoft) Word.
This statement prompted howls of outrage from Ken-Hardin, IT Business Edge's VP of subscriber products, when he read a draft of my piece. Ken, the office Word savant, pointed out you could do that very thing in Word. The experience wasn't nearly as seamless as with Google Apps, of course, but it was possible.
Being a Word dummy, I had no idea whether this was true. But Burton Group's Creese confirmed it, mentioning that several versions of Word include a shared workspace function. While Google markets this kind of sharing/concurrent editing capability as a primary feature of Apps, Microsoft has never done so for Office, so most Word users are unaware of it, Creese told me. Because Google Apps contains fewer features, it's relatively easy to discover everything it does, which certainly isn't the case with Word. Said Creese:
Clicking around in Google Apps, you can pretty much figure out what it does in five minutes. Clicking around in Office to explore every feature would take hours.
Of course, lots of people have no real need for this kind of a shared workspace function. For many folks, savvy use of Word's Track Changes feature offers enough after-the-fact collaboration capability. As a writer, you'd think I'd be a whiz at using Track Changes and Word's other editing features. Sadly, that's not so. So I was quite taken with this piece on PC Helps Online, which offers tips on using Track Changes in various versions of Word and some bonus tips on painlessly inserting existing files into Word documents.
Creese also told me that Microsoft has put more multimedia/sharing functionality in OneNote, which it has historically pitched for students. He said OneNote isn't typically seen as part of Office, even though it is an Office product. That could change, however, with a forthcoming Web version of OneNote.
Last week's PC Pro review of Office 2010 Web Apps indicated Microsoft's OneNote Web App was disabled. According to Microsoft, its features will include simultaneous editing, AutoCorrect, spellchecking and the option to insert pictures and tables. The article called the online version of Excel "the most accomplished of the Web Apps so far" and said PowerPoint "could be one of the better Web Apps" if Microsoft tweaks the presentation and editing functionality. Oddly, according to the article, "Microsoft has no plans to implement simultaneous editing on Word documents, a feature that's one of the major attractions of Google Docs."