Google to launch online spreadsheet to smash Microsoft’s “Excel” (a true misnomer)

Now, normally I would never write about this sort of thing. But the idea of a world without Microsoft Excel is just too exciting, too glorious – I simply can’t ignore it. Let’s hope Google does as spectacular a job with this as they have with their other products (I am a huge fan of Google Desktop, Gmail, Picasa and, more recently, Calendar.) Now, if only they could replace Microsoft altogether and make the company and its ulcer-inducing products obsolete – imagine what a better world this would be. What I love about Google’s products is their radical simplicity, the fact that I can run them on intuition alone. I don’t want to have to think of telecommunications technology when I make a phone call, and I never want to think about computing and manuals and IT as I use the applications on my computer. Google and Apple really get this. Why do we need a company like Microsoft when we have Google and Apple?

Update: I just thought of the obvious question: Will China let you access this or will it go the way of gmail and, both subject to blockage in the PRC?

The Discussion: 8 Comments

Something similar came out in the late 90s, built using DHTML (I think). Back then it was exciting.

Gonzales et al are “asking” Google and other major players to retain data for 2 years so they can pretend to analyze it for evidence of porn or terrorism. So do you really want your spreadsheet data to be up in the Google server? (For that matter, do you want your calendar and email in the Google server?)

June 7, 2006 @ 7:09 am | Comment

Hell, if Gonzales really wants my data and my schedule, let him the fuck have it. What do I care? Whatever this government wants of ours they can just come in a take anyway using the Patriot Act, or not using any law at all. All they need to say is it’s in the name of our Sacred War on Terror.

June 7, 2006 @ 7:45 am | Comment

what about OpenOfficeOrg then? Ever tried it?

simply use CALC, the Excel replacement:


June 7, 2006 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

To try to answer the question Why do we need a company like Microsoft when we have Google and Apple?:

It’s because of competition and the products that brings to bear on the market, ultimately benefiting many people. there are known reasons why Microsoft is the world’s largest software company:

  • it offered (compared to mainframes) easy applications to learn and use, unlike the disparate Computer Associates suite non-integrated applications
  • its software is generally MUCH cheaper than everyone else’s, unlike IBM and Oracle
  • it positioned its software to be used on open-source hardware, unlike Sun Microsystems and Apple

The very claims made about Google today were made about Microsoft then – including that it was a good piece of stock to own. Prior to that, people also said the same good things about IBM. Google by itself is not a great company because it is the underdog – far from it. In the search space, it still has more market share than MSN and Yahoo (alive for over 10 years now).

Liking a particular type of technology and hating a company are two entirely different things. I actually like Mac’s Tiger OS, but I believe Apple is by far the most evil corporation on the planet. I don’t use a Macintosh because I am much more familiar with Microsoft’s platform. But do I go around telling everyone to stop using Apple? No. It’s their choice. I use Gmail because I find it to be faster, better at catching spam and I like the threading feature โ€“ but I donโ€™t like the fact that it lacks IMAP support. Do I tell people they must use Gmail? No. It’s their choice.

We could argue that companies are good or bad based on their behavior. Google is certainly not helping the US government with identifying child pornographers. Google helps the Chinese government block information.

The issue with emotional statements on technology and technology companies is that they are just that – emotional. Novell did not have a solid indemnification clause for its customers when SCO sued Novell customers for intellectual property right infringement by using a version of Linux that allegedly had Unix code in it. Is Linux the best thing on the planet? Maybe from the stand point of the person using it, emotionally, but not from a legal stand point. As soon as they are sued, just for using the product, it doesn’t matter how much they love it – they stop using it.

If we want to find something bad, we will. But why? What’s the point? To win people over to our opinion? Let’s say that this happened – everyone in the world stops using Microsoft software. Now over 20 million people are out of work (employees, partners, trainers, system integrators, system administrators). In the US alone, this would cripple some businesses to the point of bankruptcy.

Falling into a religious position over technology and technology companies is dangerous and futile. Technology changes constantly. Companies, as corporate citizens, are some times good and some times bad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could but all of these “my technology can beat up your technology” arguments to rest and just use whatever we want without fear of persecution?

DISCLAIMER: At the time of this writing, I own both Microsoft and Google stock.

June 8, 2006 @ 12:37 am | Comment

Having been in IT for more than 15 years myself, I know precisely where you’re coming from. All I can do is speak from my personal experience, however, and I can tell you of many, many times when I have cursed Bill Gates and his company for the needless aggravation caused by their products, while I have been constantly delighted by Google’s and Apple’s products. Forget about the “bad company” argument – forget about Google and China, and Microsoft’s strong-arming and monopolizing. I speak here only of consumer experience, and in this area Microsoft gets consistently low marks. And the only time they seem to get off their asses and make changes is when another company (like Firefox or Google) comes along and threatens them by providing something better. Google and Apple products provide an elegant, intuitive experience, MS does not. There is no MS product to which people become, en masse, fiercely loyal, like the iPod and Google’s search engine. (The only thing I can think of is MSN, which does seem to have become the IM software of choice.) People acept MS with a sense of resignation, while they embrace Google and Apple with a sense of delight and true loyalty.

There’s a reason why there are so many jokes floating around about Bill Gates going to hell. His company’s products cause a lot of people a lot of daily grief. No wonder they’re scared shitless of Google. And no wonder so many people – even those who, like me, can be highly critical of Google on an ehtical level – are thrilled that a player has emerged who really might be able to topple Microsoft from the lofty throne atop which it does not deserve to sit.

How’ve you been, by the way? Coming to taipei anytime soon?

June 8, 2006 @ 1:12 am | Comment

things are well, been spending a lot of time in china. over to taipei for a week in august – ruby tuesday’s?

speaking from a purely consumer point of view, it really depends on what you want. i know that the company i curse the most for the most unusable and unintuitive products is adobe – but i also realize that they have a purpose which i haven’t received any formal training for. many people will swear by their products though.

in the financial services industry, excel has a huge following, especially for it’s more advanced features like goal seek and scenarios. outside of financial services, common business workers rely on it to create “skunk work” apps – because they simply don’t know a programming language. it’s important to remember about excel that (besides the fact that it was first released and popularized on an Apple machine) is that it beat lotus 1-2-3 and visicalc feature for feature. could it have better features, sure! does it frustrate people, not that i’ve ever heard of. i’ve literally only heard people sing it’s praises for the past 13 years.

what about other microsoft products? let’s take internet explorer. feature for feature, it was tons better than netscape. i used netscape navigator religiously and it took me a long time to cross over. but i did because i felt it rendered faster and had more integrated and usable features. if we compare it with firefox today, it certainly is lacking in many areas. we could argue that microsoft is behind the times, but we could also recall the DOJ case which prohibits microsoft from releasing a browser without an operating system attached. the last consumer operating system, windows xp, was released in 2001. can you/should you use firefox? sure, if you like. i personally tried it when it first came out and it had a memory leak so large it stopped my computer from functioning. this was my experience and i simply won’t use it again.

it’s easy to think that microsoft is a simple windows/office company with a couple of other products here and there. XBox has a HUGE following with people fiercely loyal to that platform. the .net/biztalk development framework does too. there are diehard photostory 3 users. and let’s just be honest here, for better or for worse, who in business does not use powerpoint?

you did bring up messenger. there are actual two versions of that – windows messenger and msn messenger. the second one needs to be downloaded separately – that is someone making the choice to use it.

in all seriousness though, microsoft products have had their share of bugs. the reason this is highlighted is because of the install base. did you know that red hat linux actually had 8 times more security patches last year than windows 2003 server? 8 times! probably not and you probably don’t care. the linux community cares though – for every 80 patches a microsoft system administrator had to install, a linux administrator had to install 640.

what about usability and discoverability? microsoft touts it’s products a “rich”. there are over 2000 functions in microsoft word alone. frankly, usability sucks in many microsoft products. during the 90s and early 00s, microsoft encouraged “integrated innovation” across many of it’s products. this made them work well together, but hopeless sunk the end-user in a pit of features that even a decent help file couldn’t get him out of. microsoft money – no thanks. i’ll use quicken any day. but we can’t place the blame on microsoft as the only company that does this – have you used any corel products recently?

google has focused on simplicity for a few reasons:

  1. it’s platform (the internet) is limited by the bandwidth of the end-user. even somebody on an old 486 can still use google products (to some extent). keeping the product simple is paramount.
  2. the revenue generator. contrary to popular belief, google is not a technology company. it doesn’t really “sell” product. it sells ads. it’s a huge marketing company, of which it’s platform happens to be its ad-delivery device. it needs to be simple and intuitive. text-ads, in part, are used because they are delivered up very fast.
  3. cutting edge. google stays ahead because it can continue to slightly tweak it’s products at a blazing speed. it’s pioneered the usage of AJAX and users benefit from it. but does it introduce features that an advanced user may need/want – not usually. just look at blogger.

if in the consumer space microsoft is blamed for having too many features, in the enterprise space it is blamed for having too few.

a lot of it is comes down to the cost issue though for consumers – and i can understand. frankly, $600 (full retail) is just way too much to pay for an office package.

web-based, hosted, and open-source software packages are great alternatives. this has put the heat on microsoft to improve not only its offering, but also its price. look at microsoft onecare – it directly competes with symantec and mcafee on security products in the consumer space. if offer more features and costs half the price. look at windows live – microsoft is scrambling to catch up with google in web services and just can’t quite seem to make it.

but does all of this mean that microsoft is somehow bad? no, not really. it’s got good products and it’s got bad ones. office 2007 is revolutionary in it’s interface – you simply won’t recognize it. nothing in google’s spreadsheet program will be able to touch the new conditional formatting in excel 2007. does that mean you shouldn’t use google’s offering – not at all. if you’ve tried it and you like it, then by all means use it.

now on to bill gates. when bill started his company, ibm was the evil empire. he was the savior (at least until that time that he wrote an article that said people shouldn’t pirate software). this guy is the richest man in the world. is it because of his company’s products that people hate him? is it because of his money? is it because he runs the largest funded charity in the world and is working with india and china to stop the spread of aids? or is it just because he looks like a nerd and still rides economy class?

one thing to be certain of though – microsoft is scared of google. that’s a given. it has taken a lot of eyes way from the windows logo and put them on gooooooooogle. this isn’t exactly a bad thing though – for either company. so if you were running microsoft, would you:

  • quit, fire all your people and shut down the company? probably not the best option, even if it’s just the humanitarian effort of not having to fire 63,000 employees and 100,000 contingent staff.
  • stop competing with google in the areas where google is king. this could be an option. then again, if google themselves don’t have any competion, what’s to stop you and i from having this “brin and sergei are evil” conversation in 10 years from now?
  • straighten up and act right! i believe the last 5 years have been a wake up call for microsoft. fixing products and security issues, better corporate governance, a better community member (do you know who funds 100% of UNICEF ads without a hint of recognition?).

from a personal stand point, i like and use microsoft products and i like and use google products. each of them has a different benefit. i don’t use apple products because a) the are incompatible with every other piece of technology and b) i believe apple to be a horrible company that treats its partners, customers and employees very badly. and i also can’t be a party to apple’s design to monopolize the technical world – from closed format iTunes to closed format hardware. but this doesn’t mean others shouldn’t use apple products if they want to.

June 8, 2006 @ 3:07 am | Comment

DD:Just browsing across your posting, I noticed your paragraph on the SCO vs. Linux case. It was… well… rather… how to say… eh… I believe is the nice term is “unique”. Especially the part about pointing out Novell rather than IBM as SCO’s main opponent in this story.

I’m sorry, but I didn’t bother to read the rest of your drivel.

Anyway! If people are interested in this case I suppose the wikipedia article is fair enough(honestly):

June 8, 2006 @ 5:59 am | Comment

jarl: it is unfortunate that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

did you even read that wikipedia article or did you just copy/paste in a URL to try to look smart?

hi, i’m jarl. i have a dumb name and i can copy and paste from a web page i never read. i sure do hope that everyone thinks i’m a smart person. i know they will because i used the word ‘drivel’. that will show everyone how smart i am!

if you’re not going to bother to read the comment, why comment at all jarly smarly?

anyway, i guess if people are interested, they could ask jar-head to expound wisdom instead of taking the time to read.


June 8, 2006 @ 8:47 am | Comment

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