An interesting article at Forbes this morning asks whether the world really needs Web-based word processing.
The observation comes as Google re-opens its Writely service to the public, and shortly after Microsoft launched its own Web-based word processor.
But entrance into the Web 2.0 office fray is probably bad news for smaller companies, or at least the smaller companies that Google doesn't decide to buy as it fleshes out an online productivity suite. The Forbes article notes that some smaller Web 2.0 firms -- and there are a ton of them -- are already beginning to fold up shop as Google and Redmond dominate mindshare in the market.
More interestingly, the CEO of wiki collaboration company JotSpot tells Forbes that it may not be such a good idea to bang heads directly with Office in the first place.
We tend to agree. There's an obvious upside to some Web-based office technology -- wikis and other collaborative platforms are the most immediate examples. But we've yet to hear a compelling argument for Web-based word processing and spreadsheeting.
Sure, there's the cost factor, but OpenOffice and other low-cost alternatives to the Microsoft suite continue to evolve into robust, credible alternatives for those shops that want to get away from Office, for whatever reason. And local storage just keeps getting cheaper. Access to Google's server bank for document storage just isn't that compelling.
Unless a company envisions staffers writing briefs and business cases on their smartphones, we see little need for Web-based access to word processing documents. And with increased emphasis on regulation and data security, what enterprise will be willing to trust a freebie service to safeguard its valuable intellectual property?
Rich browser-based applications offer a world of data sharing and application matching possibilities. But there's seldom a good reason to re-invent the wheel, or the word processor.