Let me start with the following premise: a word processor without tabs is not a word processor.
It seems like such a simple thing, tabs. And yet tabs are really a proxy for what makes a modern word processor something more substantial than old arcane products like WordStar from a bygone era.
The world changed when WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) was invented and the word processor became capable of precisely positioning each character on the screen and on paper in exactly the same way.
Without precise type control, you cannot do any of the formatting we associate with modern word processing. This includes things as simple as tabs and precise line spacing, and as sophisticated but expected as basic page layout.
Unfortunately, Google Documents is based on HTML. HTML does not allow for control over fonts and does not provide for pixel precise positioning of text. What Google is currently presenting as a word processor is in fact little more than a very poor notepad, albeit with decent collaborative functionality.
In short, HTML based text editing is lame.
The only way around this is by creating a new text editing platform based on Flash. I do not know whether Google is constitutionally capable of basing one of their cornerstone applications on Flash. But they really need to get over it. Because, as I see it, this part of their life depends on it.
By eschewing the concept of a flash based word processor, Google is leaving itself vulnerable to Adobe. Adobe has acquired, and I would imagine is now heavily investing in the first web based word processor with true pixel level type control, called BuzzWord. Adobe has better distribution than any other company on the Internet, and Adobe has the best web client technology, and adobe owns PDF. As I see it, Adobe is well poised to beat Google at being *the* web document company, just as they are *the* print document company.
This might not be so important if it weren’t so important. The stakes cant possibly be higher. The format that documents are stored on the Internet is really one of the major end games. If Google does not have a good document editor, they will not be the platform that people use to edit and store documents. For this reason, as I see it, there is nothing more important for Google outside of search than providing users a good document editing and storage platform. They aren’t even in the game right now, and as I see it, they aren’t even on the right playing field.