This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Google's Quickoffice Bolsters Mobile, Constrains Microsoft

Google bought Quickoffice, hemming in Microsoft and rendering Google Drive / Apps suddenly more attractive.

Google bought leading Office-compatible app-maker Quickoffice, adding luster to Google Drive and Google Apps. The move puts Microsoft in a tough position as Windows 8 nears release.

When people bring their own phones and tablets to work and use them on the job, the chances are very good that at some point they are going to want to work with Microsoft Office documents on those devices. Office itself does not run on mobile devices -- though there are credible rumors that Microsoft is working on an iPad product. One of the best choices for Office compatibility on mobile devices is the suite of apps from Quickoffice. Google just bought them.

Google's attempt to knock Office off its perch was born Google Docs and is now called Google Drive. The enterprise version is Google Apps. These cloud-based productivity applications work best on fixed computers; they tend to be clunky on mobile. And their degree of Office compatibility leaves something to be desired. (Third-party apps have sprung up whose sole purpose is to make Google Docs palatable on mobile devices.)

Quickoffice promises to fix these problems for Google after a bit of integration. The apps work seamlessly with Microsoft Office-formatted documents, doing round-trip importing and exporting while keeping almost all document formatting and other features intact. They also smoothly ingest and export Google Docs format. They run on iOS, Android, WebOS, and Symbian. QuickOffice is a best-selling app on both iOS and Android, with (according to one source) over 300 million copies in the field.

It's Microsoft's move
Google's acquisition turns up the heat on Microsoft. Windows 8, the company's one shot at a merged tablet-and-desktop operating system, is scheduled to release in the fall. (Reviews of Windows 8 running on Samsung tablets have been generally positive, while those same reviewers have panned the desktop version.) Microsoft has to decide what to do about its cash cow Office in the mobile space.

One possible path would be to limit mobile Office to Windows 8 tablets, in conjunction with a campaign to convince business leaders that only genuine Office is good enough for their workers. If Microsoft succeeds in getting a "genuine Office" clause written into companies' BYOD policies, it could be a big boost for the prospects for Windows 8 tablets in the enterprise.

That strategy carries big risks, however. If a "genuine Office" campaign doesn't take hold, people might very well be inclined to buy the established, market-leading iPad -- and run Google Quickoffice -- rather than take a risk on an untested Microsoft tablet. It would also be a major risk to ignore completely the Android/iOS smartphone market, which over time is bound to account for more and more of people's online time and attention.

If Microsoft decides to release an Office product on the iPad, doing so might make them some money but would undercut any perceived advantage to buying a Windows 8 tablet. And pricing an iPad product could be problematical: Quickoffice goes for $20 on that platform. If Office were priced anywhere in that range, it could seriously cannibalize sales on desktops, where Office bring in at least six times that amount.

Google's purchase of Quickoffice has reinforced its strategy to counter Microsoft Office and left Microsoft to choose from a palate of unappealing options.