Google Pushes Workspace Closer to Microsoft Office

Posted on June 29, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google, Microsoft 365, Office 365 with 4 Comments

Google has announced an interesting set of updates to its Workspace suite of cloud-based office productivity solutions. Key among them are two updates that bring the suite closer to the look and feel and functionality of Microsoft Office.

On a related side note, Google’s office productivity competition with Microsoft reminds me of the debate we have about the iPad and Windows PCs. In that latter case, the argument is about which approach is better: to take something simple (the iPad) and improve it over time so that it competes better with the more complex and powerful (PC) offering, or to simplify the more complex thing and make it more mobile and efficient. In this case, the debate is whether it’s better to start from scratch with a cloud-based solution (Workspace) and then and improve it over time so that it competes better with the more complex and powerful (Office) offering, or to make that more complex thing simpler and available from the cloud.

Both debates are ongoing, but it’s fair to point out that Google’s share of the office productivity market is tiny. And that Microsoft has successfully transitioned its on-premises Office business to the broader Microsoft/Office 365 family of products that have viable clients on the web, on mobile, and on desktop. But Google is improving Workspace at a reasonable pace. And Microsoft still has a way to go before its web-based Office apps, in particular, can compete effectively with Google’s. Microsoft doesn’t even offer offline support, for example, and its co-authoring technology beyond the web is terrible compared to Google’s; I suspect the reason is that it has had to retrofit this functionality on top of legacy applications.

In any event, Google this week announced updates to Workspace, as noted. I’m going to focus on two:

Offline syncing of Microsoft Office documents. Google has steadily improved Workspace’s compatibility with Microsoft Office documents and formats over the years, and it added offline capabilities to Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), and Slides (presentation) in 2019. But starting immediately, Workspace and personal Gmail users can work offline with Microsoft Office files on the desktop (using the web apps). “When your device is offline, you’re now able to edit, comment, and collaborate on Office files using Docs, Sheets, and Slides,” Google explains. “Any changes made to files while offline will then sync to Drive once you are connected again.”

The Outlook-ification of Gmail still continues. Back in February, Google announced that it was redesigning Gmail on the web with “a new, integrated view … making it easy to move between critical applications like Gmail, Chat and Meet in one unified location.” This week, it announced an updated timeline for that transition and, more important, some updates to the design. Schedule-wise, the update is now rolling out to “a segment of Gmail users,” who can revert to the old design for now if they prefer. And those who have Gmail personal accounts will have a “Gmail-only” view, which I’d prefer. “Users who use Gmail, Chat and Meet, can specify which apps they would like included in their new view by customizing their apps in quick settings,” Google notes. “They also have the option to use a Gmail-only configuration.” And the updated design features a new Material You look for the navigation bar. It’s rolling out now to Gmail and Workspace users, but not to Workspace Essentials customers.

Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (4)

4 responses to “Google Pushes Workspace Closer to Microsoft Office”

  1. jMawgDog

    Is it fair to say that "Microsoft doesn’t even offer offline support" when they do have full versions of its software available to install on PC/MAC and mobile devices? True their web versions don't function offline, but they have a powerful set of offline applications.


  2. sofan

    google workspace has bright future as the world is moving in to cloud

  3. geoff

    Google's main problem is that no business can trust Google with their data. So they won't use Google Workspace. Ever.

    Students are a different market, obviously.

  4. TechsUK

    After years on Outlook, and more recently living in Outlook on the web, I had to shift to use Gmail/workplace in some settings. I was flabbergasted by the dated GUI. I mean it worked, but features I expected, like typing someone's name for the first time who I knew was in the org directory and it didn't look them up. I had to dig a few menus deep to enable that. There are features in gmail that I like and wish Microsoft had, but it was clear to me that many people on Google have no idea the progress and strides ahead Microsoft has made in recent years.