Enterprises gain Google Docs offline support via Quickoffice

Google acquired the mobile productivity application Quickoffice to provide Google Docs offline capabilities for iOS and Android mobile devices.

With its recent purchase of Quickoffice, Google can offer enterprises Google Docs offline and native clients for mobile devices, which Microsoft has yet to provide for Office.

The combination of Google Docs and Quickoffice gives customers more flexibility and gives Google a competitive edge against Microsoft Office, industry watchers said. Microsoft won’t offer an Office application suite until the company releases Windows 8 in the fall. Even then, Office 15 for iOS and Android won’t be available until next year.

“This isn’t merely a mobile play, it’s a Microsoft Office play,” said Benjamin Robbins, a principal at Seattle-based enterprise mobility and technology solutions provider, Palador Inc.

In 2008, Google Docs offline capabilities were available with the browser extension, Gears. But in 2010, Google dropped Gears in favor of HTML5, which made the productivity suite faster and afforded it more features, but at the expense of offline support.

With Quickoffice apps for Android and iOS, users can create, edit and view Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on their mobile devices. This allows Google to provide offline document editing again, which some enterprise customers can’t live without.

“Until you get to a state where online capable is 99.99% guaranteed, especially in an enterprise context, offline will always be necessary,” Robbins said.

Still, some IT pros found it ironic that Google, a cloud company, bought an application company for offline, native applications.

“It’s puzzling, bizarre and a step backwards,” said Bob Egan, founder of the Sepharim Group, an enterprise mobility consulting firm based in Cape Cod, Mass.

Google Docs still lacks enterprise features

While Google Docs offline support is nice, Google must advance its mobile productivity tools to address more pressing shortcomings, said Egan.

One problem with Google Docs is provisioning and de-provisioning employees, Egan said. He noted several anecdotal examples of an employee leaving a company and still having access to email and documents weeks or months after their last day.

“The cost of risk management [for Google Docs] is getting out of control,” and “giving IT a headache,” he said.

Some expect the Quickoffice acquisition will lead to more features in Google Docs that Microsoft Office customers would want, such as “track changes and other features missing" from Google Docs now, said Philippe Winthrop, managing director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, a think tank based in Boston, Mass.

Sanofi Pharmaceutical has an enterprise license for Quickoffice on the iPad.  The company uses Quickoffice because it has a good set of editing features plus format compatibility with Microsoft Office on desktops and laptops, said Brian Katz, director of mobility for the Paris-based company.

Employees at Sanofi use Google Docs informally for work, but there hasn’t been huge adoption because Office is available, Katz said.

Quickoffice says its software is installed on more than 300 million mobile devices, which Google alluded to as being a primary reason for the acquisition.

A one-time Quickoffice license costs $14.99 for both Android and iOS. There is also a free version of the app for viewing documents, and Quickoffice offers an enterprise licensing agreement for 50 or more users.

Google has not revealed its pricing plans for Quickoffice, which is just one of several recent acquisitions: On Monday, Google acquired messaging firm Meebo. Last week, Google went live with updates to Google+ that incorporated last September’s Zagat acquisition, and last month, Google officially closed its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush  on Twitter; like on Facebook

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