Is Google Docs disrupting Microsoft Office?

Previously, I summarized Keller and Husig’s (2009) framework for evaluating disruptive potential of a software. In this post, I will attempt to summarize how they applied that framework to their case study of Google vs Microsoft for their office applications.

First, its important to remember that “Disruption is a process, not an event, and innovations can only be disruptive relative to something else” (Clayton Christensen). Therefore, we will evaluate the process of Google Docs potentially disrupting Microsoft Office. By the end, I hope to have a good understanding of how these two software products will pan out in the years to come.

Disruptive competition - Google Drive vs Microsoft Office
Evaluating the potential of Google Drive disrupting Microsoft Office 

Understanding the Technology in Competition between Google and Microsoft

It is important to understand the influence of the technology that is core to Google and Microsoft. Google’s core technology and expertise are in modern web applications – not only for its Google docs product but also for its other products. Google primarily uses the Internet as a platform (with exception to its chrome operating system).

On the other hand, Microsoft’s technologies and expertise are in desktop software products and owns the most popular operating system first products – Microsoft Windows.

However, for the innovation in question, both companies are more directly competing on the potential of the web application innovation. Below, we evaluate how disruptive the web application innovation is for Google (startup) and Microsoft (incumbent).

Conclusion of evaluating Google Docs vs Microsoft Office for Disruptive Potential

The authors conducted the evaluation of Google Docs vs Microsoft office using criteria sheets and trajectory map. Their conclusion noted the following points to be considered as the disruptive competition between google and Microsoft continues;

  • Office productivity web applications of Microsoft and Google are satisfying market demand in an established market.
  • It is unclear if Google Docs is truly a low-end product. Microsoft also has low-end products for students and educational institutions.
  • Improvements in web applications could make it a bit easier for Google docs to compete with desktop-like performance in the years to come.
  • Google Docs is blocked by a main market entry (last phase of disruption to happen). This is because of Microsoft’s strong network effects (people prefer to use office wherever they go, locked in customers, familiar software etc.).
  • Google has a distinct business model and process built around its web services which can amount to a disruptive threat. However, Microsoft Office’s business model is just as robust – with partners, OEM manufacturers, multi-year long contracts etc. Keeping a close eye on how their business model pan out in the future will be of interest.
  • Google Doc’s is facing significant switching and coordination costs. People do not want to use google docs on one computer and Microsoft office on the other. For example, I write this blog post with Microsoft office on any computer.

Google docs and Microsoft Office will continue to compete in the coming years. What makes this competition interesting is that it’s a battle between two giants – instead of a startup and an incumbent. The disruptive potential for Google docs to overtake Microsoft Office are slim. I am keen to see how this will pan out in years to come.

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