Google unveiled an upgraded line of cloud-based business applications this week that include several features and tools that are core to Microsoft’s trademark Office suite.

The additions, which were showcased to a group of about 400 CIOs at an event in Silicon Valley called Atmosphere 2010, include editing tools for word processing and easier ways to populate cells in spreadsheets.

Google has struggled to get businesses to adopt its cloud-based offerings, but by adding features and making the applications more comparable to Microsoft’s versions of its popular word processing and spreadsheet applications, it hopes to win converts.

In a blog on the company’s Web site, Dave Girouard, president of Google Enterprise, played up the collaborative capabilities of its offerings. He noted there is now support for up to 50 people to work on the same document at the same time and it is now possible to see people’s edits in documents as they are made, character-by-character. “You can also collaborate on flow charts, diagrams and other schematics in real time,” he said in the blog.

 Other features include:

  • Imported documents will retain their original structure more accurately, so users will not have to fix such formatting as bullets and text alignment.
  • In documents, Google added a margin ruler, improved number and bullets.
  • In spreadsheets, it added a formula editing bar, cell auto-complete, and drag-and-drop columns.

The upgrades come just as Microsoft gears up to launch the latest version of its Office suite next month. Whereas Google Docs is free for consumers and costs about $50 per business user per year, Microsoft will charge about $99 to $499 for its software at retail, depending on the version.




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