The most telling anecdote I've seen this morning in the frenzy over Google Presentations came in a San Francisco Chronicle reporter's blog from the trade show where Eric Schmidt announced the new "competitor" for Microsoft PowerPoint.
When Schmidt said that the planned product wasn't aiming to bang heads with Redmond, he reportedly caught flack from both moderator John Battelle and the audience:
Battelle wasn't buying it. "Come on," said Battelle, the conference organizer who wrote a book about Google. "It's a competitor to Microsoft Office."
The audience applauded. Schmidt acknowledged that Microsoft will have a response, but he maintained that Google Apps is just a collaborative, Web 2.0 product for people who want that.My initial impulse was that anybody wanting to collaborate on a PowerPoint outside a corporate LAN/WAN makes my skin crawl. But of course there are plenty of freelancers and virtual teams out there who can take advantage of a secure, easy access collaboration platform of this type. All reports are that Microsoft is heading toward Web-based delivery of its Office apps anyway -- that could fairly be considered a response to the overall trend toward the Web embodied by Google, but not to any specific product launch.
Second, give Schmidt some credit -- he's just being honest. After the initial frenzy over Google Apps, the general consensus is that it's OK, needs to support offline use, and certainly is not gobbling up business market share as the anti-Redmond crowd predicted/hoped. Google Presentations will do many of the same things PowerPoint does, but that makes it a "competitor" to Office the same way me shooting hoops at the Y makes me a "competitor" to Larry Bird.
People tend to see things through the lens of their own experience, and since most folks think of technology as the applications they run, they've constructed a head-to-head battle on that front between Google and Microsoft that simply is not happening.
Google is an advertising company. Its success stems from applications, like search and now video sharing, that drive that model. If you want to follow Google's war with Redmond, keep a close eye on the DoubleClick flack. Google already owns a prime chunk of the online advertising market, and it's now set to flat out overwhelm anybody who wants to play in its space.
Little application launches like Google Presentations are just the by-product of Google having tons of cash and embracing a culture in which its developers are encouraged to throw new stuff at its well-funded wall to see what sticks.