Presumably one of the most important initiatives at Google outside of search has got to be Google Docs. Having a platform for people to create and edit documents on the web has to have been seen as a critical feature. Why then, has Google Docs sucked so badly for so long? It really has borne no resemblance to a real word processor since inception. Yes, its had sharing, its lone competitive advantage. And yes that sharing has recently gotten better with its live multi-person editing that almost no one needs. But fundamentally Google Docs just sucks.
Where are style sheets, outline structure, type handling, etc. Yes they have supposedly added a bunch of stuff with a supposed new HTML5 based version. But it isn't live yet. At least not for me. And even what they announced, from what I remember, is not enough.
Yes, I am comparing Google Docs to Microsoft Word. But why not. That is what everyone else who uses Word or its similar competitor in Open Office does. It seems fair to me.
One of the often trotted out arguments about disruptive technologies is that they often start out looking like toys, but they serve some constituency really well, and they grow into something serious while no one is watching. As the argument goes, that is what is happening with Google Docs.
But with the launch of the new version of Facebook and Microsoft's near launch of its own "Docs" platform, I think its over for Google Docs. Presumably Microsoft Docs, tied into Facebook's social network, will have great sharing. And clearly Microsoft will have better editing features.
Google Docs started out as a toy and never graduated. And in taking so long to make it good, they have apparently given Microsoft all of the time it needed to catch up to Google, and it would seem, to lap it. The idea, as it has been explained, has been that Google Docs would be sold into the corporate environment. But at this point that seems like a ludicrous notion. I guess Google could just give Docs away, and at least try to hurt Microsoft by applying price pressure. But Google's efforts with Docs seems like such a competitive joke that I am not even sure free will be enough to make even a mildly noticeable impact.
Lesson learned: You snooze you lose.