Microsoft. Remember them? Of course you do. They’re everywhere. You couldn’t care less about their phones. Windows 8 makes you yawn. Surface sounds vaguely cool, but you just can’t see the point. It doesn’t matter: you still use their stuff. Of course you do. Even if you actively avoid them. In fact if you work or go to school almost anywhere, you’re probably using Microsoft all the time.
Microsoft’s rivals covet the deep roots they’ve grown in business, education, and government and wish to uproot them and replace them. No one is trying harder to do that than Google. Google Apps for Business, Education, Nonprofits, and Government grew up on the web, sneaking in the back door so to speak. Its primary appeal was being good enough, and at a better cost (if not free).
For all of their success in this area, Google has never owned the stack. Even the many businesses, schools, and government agencies who chose Google over Microsoft generally still use Windows devices and Microsoft software. Microsoft, on the other hand, can offer nose-to-toes solutions with nothing Googley involved. This puts Google at a potential disadvantage if Microsoft closes the gap, and the back door.
The smartphone and tablet markets opened a new door and Google took it with Android. They could, perhaps, have used this to free themselves from Microsoft, by building their own productivity platform. Instead they have focused on the Chrome Operating System and Google Docs while letting Android run wild. Whether that was foolish or brilliant is debatable, but the story isn’t over yet.
Many businesses are deploying Microsoft and even Apple devices and snubbing Google. Others are deploying Chromebooks, or Chromeboxes, but snubbing Android. Who can blame them? Platform consistency just makes life easier for an I.T. Department, and Android doesn’t have that. It varies by device, by OEM, even by carrier, and has a poor update cycle even for critical updates.
Except, of course for the Nexus series, which until now has been little more than a yearly developer experiment in creating a pure Android device. This year’s Nexus 7 changed everything. At a starting price of $199 with surprisingly good hardware and the latest version of Android (with timely updates), the Nexus 7 was the first consumer hit among Google-branded devices.
This was followed by the Nexus 10, which raised the bar for screen resolution, and the Nexus 4, whose sales exceeded expectations. Thanks to the success of this lineup, it’s easy to imagine Google will sell even more Nexus devices in 2013 than this year, and Nexus will finally become a consumer force. Can it also be an enterprise force? I believe it can, and suspect it will be.
Android already rules the roost in many government agencies, but now the education world has taken notice of the Nexus 7, as well. The Lunarline School of Cyber Security is giving new enrollees free Nexus 7’s. A Nexus 7 Grant Program is offering free tablets for classrooms. Many other schools, especially in districts that have “gone Google” for Education, are at least looking at the possibility of Nexus 7’s in the classroom.
The business world is slowly noticing, as well. Enterprise mobile app company DoubleDutch’s CEO bought his staff Nexux 7’s for Christmas to inspire his developers, for example. Meanwhile, British Daily The Times is offering a discount Nexus 7 for digital subscribers, and The Financial Times is giving one away for free.
These are hardly mainstream enterprise clients, but Google has a plan to win those as well. Before their Nexus refresh, Google acquired an office suite, Quickoffice, for Android and iOS. Quickoffice, unlike Google Docs, is a native application and can work directly with Microsoft Office file formats.
Then about a week ago, Google dropped a bomb: Quickoffice would be free for Google Apps customers, who already pay less (if they pay anything) than for Microsoft’s business apps. Quickoffice may not have all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Office, but free is always tempting, and it’s available for the growing number of workplace mobile devices.
In the future it may be possible to imagine a business, school, or government agency using Google Apps while exclusively deploying Chrome and Android devices for productivity, or at least embracing Android as part of their I.T. and BYOD strategies.
Nexus and Chrome devices are competitively priced to position them for this market. Quickoffice and Google Docs (now Drive) could prove to be the one-two punch that knocks the Microsoft Office behemoth off its pedestal. Google’s not quite there yet, however.
If they really want to put the knife to their competition, they still have work to do on polishing Google Apps and their Chrome and Android software, ensuring the build quality and supply chain of devices, and fleshing out Google Play and the Chrome Web Store with a wider selection and higher quality of software.
They also need to convince their hardware partners to focus on building a platform, with more consistency and a lot less pointless differentiation. And they’ll need to build more Android tablets with productivity in mind. At the very least, all Nexus tablets should have an official keyboard dock available at launch, and Google should seriously consider doing a Nexus PC.
And they will need to lay out a vision for the future of Google Apps that involves their more experimental efforts like Google Now, Project Glass, and Driverless Cars, which have a lot of potential in these areas but are either very new or not available yet. They should position Google Apps as not only the better deal now, but the stronger choice for the future.
The race is on, and Microsoft won’t take this challenge to their core business lying down. If Google is to start tying up these loose ends, look for 2013 to bring big changes, with an expanded Nexus lineup with Quickoffice free to download (or preinstalled) for Google Apps customers to be part of this. One 7-inch wonder tablet, a 10-inch tablet with a pretty screen, and a phone almost no one can get their hands on won’t topple Windows, iOS, or even Macintosh for business and education. Nor will a few Chromebooks.
Together, though, and with a coat of polish, an aggressive strategy, and help from their OEM partners, 2013 could be the year Chrome and Android become the go-to productivity platforms and when Google, perhaps, finally snatches the enterprise I.T. crown from Microsoft. Stranger things have happened.
School of Cyber Security Students to Receive Nexus 7 Tablets
EdTechTeam Donating Nexus 7 Tablets to Teachers!
Nexus 7 Android Tablets for Christmas At DoubleDutch
Get a Nexus 7 for just £50 when you subscribe to The Times
Google Launches Free Quickoffice iPad App For Google Apps For Business Customers, iPhone And Android Coming Soon
Free to FT Subscribers, Nexus 7 will be a Content Trojan Horse
I love technology and how it changes our lives. There’s something almost spiritual about how new technologies connect and empower us. And it’s really cool, too.