Google Apps' terrible mistake

Update: Or was it mine? I read the support document to mean "download" as "open" rather than "save". If that's the case I stand corrected, not something you see often in my stories. Damn, who's the jackass now? :)

Some days feel like I live in a parallel universe. How did I miss this? On October 1, Google Apps drops support for Office 2003-07 formats. That means no way to download .doc, .ppt or .xls documents. Am I the only person thinking this ranks among the mothers of jackass ideas?

As a Chromebook user, I see disaster ahead. Nearly all documents people send me are the older Office formats, not .docx, .pptx or .xlsx. Starting next week, Google takes away my ability to open them in Docs (save might still be possible). I presume that even today, the majority of stored corporate documents are these older x-less, non-open-XML formats. So Google Apps' Office 2003-07 format assassination will leave many businesses in the lurch, giving even more of them reasons to stay with Microsoft -- or to go back.

If I worked for the software giant in marketing, October 1 would be champagne day, baby. Google sets up helluva great counter-marketing opportunity. Hell, this sells itself. Office 2013 supports older binary formats just fine. Even better, just as Google chops off a hand, Microsoft extends one. The new Office adds full support -- that's open, edit and save -- for ODF 1.2, PDF and strict open XML.

Google touts "open principles", which makes some sense moving away from proprietary binary formats. But another definition of open is ignored: open access to what people widely use. Google closes that up next week.

Personally, there's a silver lining in this cloud. I have asked writers for months to stop writing stories in Word, as a few of them do. Word-written stories present problems converting and posting as HTML on our content management system. (Smart quotes are evil!) The few authors that file Word docs (rather than directly to the CMS) will have to adapt.

But for businesses that still save to the binary formats or have a heap load of documents in them, suddenly Google's cloud productivity suite is a less compelling choice. You can be sure Microsoft sales people will pound the doors raving about Office 365 and 2013 as the better productivity options.

Photo Credit: Armin Rose/Shutterstock

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