Posted June 6, 2006 10:10 am by with 13 comments

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CNet (and a host of others) reports Google will today launch Google Spreadsheets, an online spreadsheet program that will compete with Microsoft’s Excel. The question is, why?

Google is getting so far outside its comfort zone, it risks tarnishing its brand by launching a crappy product because it reached too far. For example, have you tried using Writely (Google’s online word processor)? It’s a piece of junk. We’ve tried using it in-house to collaborate on documents and it never correctly saves and notes edits made.

I see two reasons for launching Google Spreadsheets, one of them legitimate.

1. Stickiness – The more products you use, that are owned by Google, the more likely you are to use Google’s search engine. Verdict: Legit.
2. Microsoft – Google is determined to “get up in Microsoft’s grill” and is launching products simply to take shots at the software company. Verdict: You can’t “out-Microsoft” Microsoft.

Lastly, how boring is the name “Google Spreadsheets”? It’s so unlike Google. It’s clear they are trying to position themselves as a serious alternative to Excel, otherwise they would have gone with some cool name like GSheets or something.

Admittedly, I’ve not yet used Google Spreadsheets. When I do, I’ll let you know what I think. In the meantime, Google continues to puzzle me. Just when you think they’ve re-aligned their focus to “core search”, they go and throw another curve-ball product launch.

  • If you believe (or assume) that Google is just working towards “Google Office” then this is one more step in that direction.

    They purchased Writely to get into the online word processor game, and spreadsheets is next.

    I would assume some form of Powerpoint online would be coming soon, along with other Microsoft-esque or “office-esque” applications.

    I do agree that Google is jumping further out of their comfort zone and just when they say they want to go after MORE of the search business they launch something outside of that scope. And, it’s hard to ignore the louder and louder complaints about Google doing things “halfway” and launching too quickly with their products.

    Makes for interesting news though. *smile*

  • “get up in Microsoft’s grill”

    Andy, you’re not only white, you’re English. In fact, if you were any whiter, you’d be Ben. Please never say that again 😛

    Back to the point of your post: I agree. I think Google has been spreading themselves too thin for too long. Aside from actual search, all of their other services are 2nd rate. Also, they all take longer and longer to load pages because of the number of services pulling from the finite pool of resources. That’s right, Google actually does have finite resources. And as you noted: the products aren’t getting any better. They’re just the next Microsoft-esque “me too” company.

  • Anonymous

    Google is trying to find a ticket for every avenue which has been making money. Meanwhile…..

    I wish you have already come across Zoho Sheet [] and Zoho Writer []. They are fine when it comes to collaboration and managing documents online.


  • “In fact, if you were any whiter, you’d be Ben.”

    *sniff* I am quite pale, but still…I’m not quite sure how to take that comment.

    I’ll definitely stop using the phrase, “get up in my grill” though…for fear of comment retribution! *grin*

  • Hi Ben, I think Robert meant his comment for another Ben (who works for us). 🙂

    So, excluding search products, what has Google launched that you think proves they can launch products outside of their core and be successful?

  • Anonymous

    Is this not to do with letting the developers decide what they work on? This famous 20% time?

    IMO, i don’t think writely is that great but it is handy to have an online office and if that is the way it is going, i say bring it on.

    Also remember that most of the ‘products’ are in still in private test and very early stage Beta (and FREE!) but given the ease of updating a single source code file, why not release very early and let your users hack it apart?

    I have a Gmail account but still use Outlook and a Writely account but still use Word. The only products i use day-to-day are bookmarks and calendar (and Adwords, Analytics).

  • Thanks for the clarification Andy, that puts me more at ease!

    A lot of people are applauding Google Calendar as one of the better ones, although not sure how they plan on monetizing it.

    As for what the last anonymous person wrote about the 20% time, recently I read (wish I remembered where) that the CEO of Google noted that that is getting a bit out of hand; that developers are working too much on “side projects” and not on the core (search mostly). So who knows really.

  • “So, excluding search products, what has Google launched that you think proves they can launch products outside of their core and be successful?”

    Google Maps, Google Earth, GMail and Blogger are all non-search products, and I think all of them are very cool (especially the first three).

    But, I do agree that of late, because of so many half-baked product launches from google, the services that do rock (like the ones above that I mentioned) are also getting hit from the low PR that the others that do suck (google notebook, orkut, etc) are sort of generating.

    In fact, every new product that google launches that is not quite ready for prime time hurts their overall brand in such a way that people start forgetting the fact that gmail, earth and maps do rock big time.

    anyway, as for google spreadsheets, I’ve tried it out and it is a nice collaboration tool, not feature packed, but works for general non-critical use cases (which is what the product is all about). I’ve done a write up on my blog… maybe you’d like to have a look…

  • Outside of “core” search. I would say that Analytics and Blogger are the two products that rock – both of which were smart acquisitions rather than developed internally.

    Additionally, Maps is cool but only really became more useful than Mapquest, when they acquired Keyhole(?) and added satellite views.

    I do have a GMail account, but unlike others, I can’t stand the GMail interface and so have it directed to my Outlook instead.

  • Hey Andy — I’m surprised you like Blogger. I’ve been trying to post a comment for half an hour and it’s been hiccuping. That’s been the case for awhile now, and it’s getting worse. Something I’m starting to comment on and getting a discussion going on as well.

    Google Maps is cool, but I don’t see it being that much better than Mapquest. They’ve got the mashups and satellite pictures; but it’s mostly because Google gets the buzz.

    Google Analytics is a GREAT product. And FREE. I think they put significant effort into making that work well, and giving people what they wanted.

    GMail is a solid product as well.

    So they’ve done some things quite well, but generally a lot of the newer stuff seems slapsticked together and launched too quickly. And I do agree with saurab in a way about it diluting their brand…

  • I like blogger for its ease of use and convenience, but then it the bloody thing keeps going down – like yesterday, when no one could comment, I couldn’t delete the duplicate post or add a new one.

  • The best feature of blogger is the ability to FTP content to another server. I haven’t found another blogging application that does that.

    It’s definitely easy to use as well (which is important), and that’s why so many early bloggers start there.

    But the downtime, slowness and lack of improvements do become serious impediments to the more serious blogger.