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Review: Office Web Apps v. Google Docs

Microsoft cuts into Google's lead in free/low-cost online productivity suites

By Maria Korolov, Network World
January 22, 2013 06:07 AM ET

Network World - For years, folks looking for free online word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations have turned to Google Docs. However, Microsoft recently released an updated set of Office Web Apps, accessible to individual users from their SkyDrive accounts, and to business users through Office 365 and SharePoint.

The Microsoft apps now support printing, touch-screen tablets, and add some other previously missing features. While overall, Google Apps offers more functionality, the Office Web Apps is starting to show promise, especially for companies committed to the Microsoft ecosystem, since Microsoft's platform makes it simple to open documents in the full, desktop-based Office software. (See a slideshow of 10 things we love/hate about each.)

Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps for Business

However, some Office Web Apps seems to be missing key components required for basic usability. The Word Web App, for example, is missing the autosave function and the Excel Web App doesn't allow users to freeze rows.

Just to be clear, Office Web Apps are not the same as Office on Demand, which is a streaming service that offers the full-featured Office software as part of an Office 2013 subscription.

Google Docs Microsoft Office Web Apps
Credit: Stephen Sauer

Both the Microsoft and Google platforms allow the upload, import, and editing of existing Office documents, creation of new documents, and saving files in the familiar Office formats. Both offer collaboration tools and mobile access.

Here's a feature-by-feature comparison of the two products.

Price: Mixed bag

Microsoft's Office Web Apps is free for individual users. Businesses can sign up for Office 365 plans, which start at $6 per user per month for up to 50 users, and include online email and shared calendars, in addition to the Office Web Apps. However, the basic plan does not include live support - for that, you'd need to upgrade to the $8 per user per month plan, which also comes with a SharePoint intranet. If your company is already using SharePoint, Web Apps require the purchase of an additional license.

The basic version of Google Docs used to be free for everyone, including business users, but Google changed its pricing structure in December. It's still free for individual users, and existing business users on the free plan. But new business users will need to pay $50 per user per year, or $120 per user per year with advanced security and e-discovery features.

Storage: Advantage Microsoft

Microsoft's Office Web Apps is located on its SkyDrive platform, which currently comes with 7 free gigabytes of storage, plus an unlimited amount of storage for the associated Hotmail or email account. Each additional 100 gigabytes of storage is $50 per year.

Google Docs is located on the Google Drive platform, which currently comes with 5 free gigabytes of storage - in addition to the 10 gigabytes for the associated Gmail account and unlimited storage for Google Docs and shared documents. Each additional 100 gigabytes of storage is $60 per year.

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