Google Gets Into the Vaporware Business

I guess you know it’s a mature technology company when it starts releasing phantom products. Google announced (pre-announced?) new hosted software for presentations. But since when does Google announce things without anything to showcase? Shouldn’t they have been in beta for a year or so first? Shouldn’t I have an account before they announce it to the world?

Though they say it’s not a PowerPoint competitor, I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop at least since the acquisition of Writely. (I’ve also argued that Google search already outperforms PowerPoint when it comes to making an actual, honest point in a transparent business world, but that’s a more philosophical debate.)

It’s interesting that Google’s explanation for why their soon-to-be-comprehensive “office” collaboration platform is not a direct Microsoft Office competitor is “It doesn’t have all the functionality, nor is it intended to have the functionality of products like Microsoft Office.” That’s at best a backhanded compliment, since one of the perceived problems with Office is the creeping featurism and overall complexity (not to mention being backed by byzantine technologies like Exchange Server that are prone to blowing up in the faces of small businesses). Many have argued that 80% of users could (and sometimes do) get by with 20% of the functionality of Microsoft Office, with improved productivity due to reduced complexity, and this would seem to be the territory Google’s hosted workspace is prepared to inhabit.

By the way, if you want to sniff the vapor a little more deeply, poke around the Google cache or Internet Archive of Tonic Systems original web site. Tonic is the recent Google acquistion rumored to be tasked with making gPresentations fly. It looks like they already had a pretty dense Java-based toolkit for manipulating PowerPoint presentations.

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