In a sign that may indicate Google is getting closer to getting a bigger piece of software giant Microsoft’s pie, Google launched a limited test of Google Spreadsheets Tuesday morning.
According to Google, Google Spreadsheets will allow users to create free, basic spreadsheets that can be shared or updated by multiple contributors with ease.
Spreadsheets will be securely stored on the web so they can be accessed from any computer with web access.
The software does not need to be installed on any local computers, saving local hard drive space and reducing the risk of losing information in the event of a hard drive crash.
Of course without locally installed computers, using the software is dependent upon an Internet connection.
Keeping files on a secure server lets you easily share, collaborate, view and edit files at the same time as your partners. Users can also chat while editing and viewing the same spreadsheet.
And for users of other software programs, files can be easily imported from .CSV and .XLS formats and you can save your files back to your local hard drive as .CSV, .XLS or HTML formats.
The software is available to a limited number of users at http://labs.google.com. Invitations will be sent out to users on the waiting list on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Robert Scoble, Microsoft technology evangelist and blogger thinks the new software will be good for both companies.
“This is a good thing in my book,” Scoble wrote on his personal blog Tuesday morning. “It's a good thing because of my philosophy. I want better software. Competition brings better software. It gets product managers to worry about customers. It causes discussions of features that were long-ago decided on.”
Scoble said Google Spreadsheets is simply two different companies’ ideas on how computers should be used.
“You're watching two massively different ideas about how computers should be used battling it out right on the world's economic stage,” Scoble said. “On one hand you have the old standard (Microsoft) Office that says ‘load locally and use local resources.’ On the other hand you have the new, fresh and clean, Google Office that says ‘load on the server and use a thin client, er browser.’”
Scoble said he’s still betting on the Microsoft Office spreadsheet to win out.
“I know which one I'm betting on,” Scoble said. “Why? Perspective. Even with my always-on-$80-a-month Verizon card getting to Network resources is still far slower than pulling them off of the hard drive. And, that'll remain true for a long time. Also, the Web browser simply doesn't have the API support to do really rich stuff.”
I agree with a lot of that. I don’t think Google releasing an online spreadsheet is going to stop me or other Microsoft fans from using Excel, but having another option for accessing and sharing my files will be a huge benefit.
My parents don’t have Excel software on their computer, but now I can share any information I put on a spreadsheet with them.
I simply enter their e-mail address into the software and they’re e-mailed a link to view, edit and change the data.
Let’s say my friends and I put together a spreadsheet keeping track of our season totals for softball.
Now we can all view it, make notes and change our stats if we’re not happy with them.
Wait – maybe this isn’t such a good idea, at least not for them.
Being able to share a document on a common server with anyone around the world will solve issues of working on a previous versions or making changes that don’t get shared with everyone else.
Being able to chat with co-workers or friends while you’re both looking at the same document, across the office or around the world, will only improve the dissemination of information and data.
But I guess I’ll have to wait for that invitation in my inbox to see just how excited I really am about Google’s new announcement.
No word yet as to if the software will contain targeted ads, based on your spreadsheet data and use.