Suddenly Everyone Wants An Online Office Suite

from the how-to-compete? dept

Just a couple weeks ago, we noted that both Google and IBM were coming out with free products that competed with Microsoft's dominant office suite offering, noting that it was looking increasingly like Microsoft supposed monopolistic domination of the space might not be as strong as some (i.e., European regulators) believed. It certainly looks like more companies smell blood in the water. Adobe has now announced that it has purchased Virtual Ubiquity, makers of an online word processor called Buzzword, just to throw some more well-backed competition into the space. Of course, at some point, you have to wonder how this market shakes out. Obviously, Microsoft is still dominant, but can that continue when it charges so much against free products? The real question, though, may be what everyone else in the market can do to compete. We recently had the Techdirt Insight Community tackle exactly that issue for a client, and the experts there came up with a few key areas that online office suite providers should specialize in to differentiate themselves from both Microsoft and Google in the space. We can't share that specific analysis, but if you're in that space and want the Community to help you craft a strategy to stand out and succeed, contact us.

In the meantime, while I can't reveal what they said, I can give you my own quick analysis for free. It's going to be very difficult for most of these online office suites to get much traction if they don't have a larger platform to plug into. Players like Zoho and Thinkfree are basically trying to build that platform from scratch, but they'll probably need to open up more to third party developers if they want to really gain traction. Google can succeed in the space, in part just by being Google -- but also as it continues to integrate its office suite offerings into other parts of Google. If and when Google finally does realize that it's become a platform play, then perhaps they'll open up the ability to develop apps on top of Google's office apps as well. On Adobe's side, they're trying to build this platform, but it's unclear how much adoption it's really getting or how well they'll be able to integrate this new purchase into the platform play.
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Filed Under: office suites, online
Companies: adobe, google, microsoft

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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:49am


    you see, i believe that if a person creates the bits, the person gets to control what happens to the bits. if i don't like the price they're charging, i can simply choose to not play their game.

    I've never said anything differently. However, what I have said in addition to this is that, as the creator of content, you need to recognize the economic trends, and realize when the business model you're using is no longer going to work. That's the case in the recording industry these days.

    as to the ownership of the bits you guys create, and the contraclual issues you mentioned, i'm 90% sure that if you walked into one of your clients, and told them that you wanted to do work for free, that you then wanted to give away, they'd jump for joy.

    Indeed, but again, you are missing the crucial point: the creation of content is not free. I've never said it should be free. I've always said that a good business model is to pay for the *creation* of content, not the continual reuse of that content. So we wouldn't offer to create content for free, because that's giving away a scarce good for free. You always want to give away non-scarce goods for free, not the scarce ones.

    i recognize that you give away plenty of what you describe as content for free. i also don't see you giving the jewels of what you do which generates revenue, away for free, or as a way to drive revenue for 'other' ventures, like oven mitts!!

    Again, you are confused. It has nothing to do with keeping the crown jewels. We DO NOT charge for content. We never have. What we are charging for is connecting you to the experts and the *creation* of new content from those experts. The content itself is a separate issue.

    your ability to separate "custom" content and to claim that this is somehow scarce, is specious at best. the artist who makes his song can also claim that it's scarce, as he may only make a few 1000 of them in his lifetime. but that's not really the principle issue. the seminal issue comes down to what the owner can do, and ownership of the bits!

    Again, you appear to have misread what I wrote. Content, once created, is no longer scarce. What I claimed was scarce was the content *before* it's created, because it doesn't exist. Therefore, you need to create the incentives for that content to be created. However, once it *IS* created, then it becomes much more difficult to resell, because the economics are completely different.

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