Polaris wants to take on Microsoft and Google. Good luck with that!

Sometimes you have to congratulate chutzpah. But sometimes you have to wonder the sense of it all.

Credit: Steve Traynor

Polaris Office is a Korean-based Software as a Service (SaaS) company that offers a cloud-based office productivity suite. As we've come to expect from these suites, Polaris offers file creation, storage, sync and share alongside editing and PDF support. Polaris Office launched in 2014 and has amassed 35 million customers since then.

Which all makes sense and points to a hyper-specific vendor that is leveraging cultural and language differences to carve itself out a niche. If that was the entire story one would congratulate Polaris for finding a niche and leveraging it successfully.

Unfortunately, Polaris has had what I can only classify as an unfortunate rush of blood to the head and has decided to launch into the US market in an effort to, in their words, make a material impact on the business of both Microsoft Office and Google Apps. Polaris is talking up its platform as being barrier-free.

It talks about positioning itself in the gap between the cloud-based conveniences of Google and the deep functionality of Microsoft Office. According to the company, the middle ground between Microsoft and Google represents a huge opportunity – the market is ripe for change and conditions are perfect for a third player to disrupt the balance between the big players. "Polaris will compete with Microsoft and Google by offering the best of both – its cloud-based office software combines the convenience/freemium model of Google for Work with the powerful functionality of Microsoft Office."

Oh my, oh my. Where to start?

Well first, this huge white space that Polaris senses between Google and Microsoft may have existed eight years ago when Microsoft was still pushing a desktop-first solution with deep functionality backed up by a very thin cloud layer, and when Google docs was certainly cloudy but lacking in core functionality. But those days have well and truly gone.

Google Apps is, for all but the most demanding of Office power users, "good enough" for most situations. At the same time, Microsoft has to its credit pulled out its finger and made Office a true cloud product. The Office mobile applications are fantastic and Office's deep ties into OneDrive mean that the sharing and synchronization features are certainly as good as anything else out there.

So why would Polaris try and enter a market with two players who are so dominant? And why wouldn't it look to the failure of other third players in the market. I think specifically of Zoho, a suite of breathtaking scope - invoicing, accounting, CRM, office productivity, Zoho has it all. The one thing it doesn't have is any real degree of customer uptake. People fundamentally don't want another choice in the market.

Polaris thinks it has an edge with real-time editing of multiple document formats, a free service for up to three devices and storage compatibility with Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox. None of that really matters. Polaris also shows itself to be woefully behind the times when it breathlessly states that "MS Office and Google for Work only allow users to store documents to their respective servers." Maybe they missed the recent news about Microsoft Office deeply supporting Box, Dropbox, Egnyte and others.

“The cloud has been transforming the way we work and communicate for the past decade, and the future of workplace collaboration now lies in flexible, cloud-based tools,” said Kwak Min-cheol, founder, and CEO of Infraware, the parent company of Polaris Office. “PC Office is a disruptive solution that goes beyond the current offerings in the U.S., giving users a truly barrier-free, cost-effective option to access their favorite tools in one place. The U.S. office software marketplace has long needed a challenger that offers both powerful functionality and cloud flexibility, and we’re excited to be able to offer that with PC Office.”

No Kwak. It really does not.

I'm not sure what caused Polaris to embark upon this mission, but it really is misguided. They should focus on their home markets and a proposition that actually makes sense. Entering the US market certainly does not.

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