Google Spreadsheet – Am I Missing Something?

I got my invitation for the Google Spreadsheet and promptly signed up. Not being a financial type, I created a couple of task lists and shared it with two different friends with email. I played around with the basic operations a bit and was reasonably satisfied.

Good points:

  • It is pretty simple
  • The UI is reasonable (though a bit clunky in some places)
  • It works well
  • Reasonably fast (though the feel is not as good as Excel)
  • The collab feature is good. You can invite others to view or edit (they need to have a gmail account, though)

Here are the questions I am struggling with:

  • Why would any one use an online spreadsheet? I am not going to put my finances or any sensitive information there.
  • As spreadsheets go, it is at the low end of the functionality
  • There is no scripting capabilities (the power of macros that make Microsoft EXCEL what it is)
  • No visible database links

Here are some wild guesses, for new releases:

  • What happens if they add the ability to syndicate/synchronize through RSS feeds
  • Provide some cool AJAX templates for project tracking/managemen, Portfolio Management
  • Provide some template building capabilities using the Google Web Tool Kit
  • Integrate it with Blogger and support RSS extensions
  • Provide a web services interface
  • Link it with Google Base
  • A desktop version (that works with Google Desktop)

Knowing Google, they probably have something up their sleeves. What they do not have, unfortunately is the large amount of feedback that Microsoft must have, from several millions of Excel users.

The current version is not bad for a free product. But it is not earth shattering. C/Net News somehow thinks that, this will turn up heat on Microsoft. I am not so sure.

Information Week on the other hand says that Google beta does not add up. Exactly.

For more on Google Spreadsheet, try this.

Update: 13 June

Application Development Trends thinks different. They see it as the beginning of a trend:

But these online apps also provide Google with a foot in the enterprise IT door.

"Clearly right now, no enterprise would look at this spreadsheet, or the word processor, or the calendar and say, yes, these are the applications I want all my employees using," McNabb says. "There's just not enough there, yet. However, the more Google offers in this area, the better it positions itself, through the habits of consumers who use its services, to influence enterprise IT behavior. You'll see it when employees start saying, I use the Google stuff at home, why can't I use it here at work?"

But perhaps the greatest significance of Google's moves in this area is its likely influence on Microsoft's own product strategy. "Microsoft is very conscious of the impact that Google can have," McNabb says. "The company is very familiar with this model of getting consumers to influence the behavior of enterprise IT. Guess who figured that model out in the first place? They know how it works, and I don't think they've forgotten it. You won't see the company abandon its client software, but you'll probably see it embrace server-side computing. In future releases of Office, you'll get the usual client software, but you may also get features that allow you to select different services you want within that client, and to pay for them on a subscription basis."

4 thoughts on “Google Spreadsheet – Am I Missing Something?”

  1. Great thoughts, Dorai. One comment on privacy: I feel the same way about where my financial data goes, but a lot of people aren’t worried about where it’s hosted. The success of Quickbooks.com is a good indicator of this.

  2. Thanks Eugene. But the recent collaboration between Dan Bricklin and SocialText points to the fact that there is more than that meets the eye.

    Perhaps, this makes sense inside an enterprise (behind the firewall) for collaborative editing of business plan, projections etc. I could not see it taking off in the consumer space, though.

  3. For a handful a folks collaborating around a table or over the phone the realtime update and simultaneous edit of different cells allow you to go much faster in managing tables and simple spreadsheets. It is much faster than either one person making changes on a commonly viewed spreadsheet or the “I go, you go” model that several of the other Office 2.0 spreadsheets offer. It seems to me that you are approaching this from the perspective of an individual developer: a small team can move much faster using this tool where they are extending and modifying the spreadsheet as they go. This is different from checking out a standard spreadsheet from a corporate file server and using it without changing the formulae.

  4. Sean,
    You make some good points. I was thinking about it more as a spreadsheet than as an online table with cell level updates.

    In fact, I was suggesting that we use it to plan out the agenda in MashupCamp2. But most of the people said that there is some fun in people going up to a board and sticking a paper in a cell in a large grid physically.

    I am sure we will see more uses of online spreadsheets. I use them for group task lists.

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