The prevailing wisdom seems to be that Google is out there developing an MS Office killer, and after launching mail, spreadsheet, calendar, database (sort of) and soon-to-be-word processor (following the acquisition of Writely), the next target on Google’s cross-hairs must be an alternative to PowerPoint.

Maybe I’m slow to see what everyone else has already figured out. So at the risk of looking foolish I’ll predict that Google is NOT going to release a PowerPoint alternative anytime in the near future.

Here’s why:

  • Google is great at web-based text applications, but has very little experience with graphic apps, which is a totally different ballgame.
  • The definition of what an Office suite contains is quite arbitrary. As I posted before, I think Google is more interested in engaging MS engineers on defending their jewel products (instead of having them spend time developing an AdSense killer), and NOT on offering a full alternative to whatever Microsoft happened to define as belonging to the Office suite. If this speculation is correct, I suspect the products will be released in order of lowest-hanging-fruit, rather than in order of what Microsoft’s marketing folks happened to package into the Office suite.
  • The success of Google’s "Office Killer" products can be ranked with almost perfect correlation to the advantages gained by turning them from desktop apps to web apps:
    • Gmail is probably the most successful – the ability to access your mail from any web-enabled device and always have it synced is a clear advantage over the desktop app – Outlook Express. On the flip side, very little functionality, if any, is lost by using email online rather than on a desktop[1].
    • Calendar – Again – enabling a calendar on the web adds significant advantages (access anywhere/anytime, and sharing of calendars) while losing very little functionality that’s in the desktop app (security is the only aspect I can think of).
    • Spreadsheet (and in due time – word processing) come next – some advantage is gained by allowing collaboration between people (and again – access), but lots of functionality is lost – graphs, macros, etc (not to mention security). Of course these are not functions used by all users, but it definitely decreases the overall appeal of the app.
    • Google Page Creator (Google’s "killer" app for Microsoft’s FrontPage). Very little value is added by moving this app online because collaboration and access on development of personal websites is hardly useful. Yet lots of the rich editing functionality possible on a desktop application is lost when migrating online, making Page Creator a very lame product compared to FrontPage (which itself isn’t something to write home about…)
    • And this is where a Google version for PowerPoint would rank – little or no value added by moving the app online, while lots of value lost by doing so.

Google has shown multiple times in the past that it will spend huge resources on products it thinks are core to its arsenal (Gmail, Google Maps, etc), and that it will also develop low hanging fruits even if their importance to Google is questionable (Page Creator, Spreadsheets, Co-Op, etc). But I have yet to see a product they released which is both of questionable value AND requires a huge R&D effort. And a PowerPoint killer falls into that category.

Sergey & Larry (& Marissa?) are smart enough to set their own product agenda and therefore the definition of what’s included in the MS Office suite is completely meaningless here, IMHO.

[1] Gmail should probably be compared to Hotmail rather than Outlook Express, but for the sake of the MS Office Killer discussion I’m sticking to Outlook Express. In any case, Gmail kicks Hotmail’s ass big time both on storage capacity and functionality.

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