Google fired a shot across Microsoft's bow this week by acquiring Quickoffice for an undisclosed amount. As the old saying goes, timing is everything. And this deal arrives just as tablet wars are starting to heat up.
Quickoffice is the maker of iOS, Android and Symbian apps that allow users to view, create and edit Microsoft Office Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on their mobile devices. Synching and sharing options let iPad-carrying employees work on projects without cracking open a laptop.
Now, the search giant is promising to bring that functionality to the Google Apps productivity suite.
In a brief blog post announcing the deal, Alan Warren, Engineering Director for Google, wrote,"Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite."
Current Quickoffice users won't be left in the lurch, assures Warren, at least for now. "Quickoffice has a strong base of users, and we look forward to supporting them while we work on an even more seamless, intuitive and integrated experience," he states.
At $19.99 for the Quickoffice Pro HD edition, it's an inexpensive way to let users work on Office files using their iPads. And the popular app has little competition since the oft-rumored Office iPad app has yet to materialize.
Although a cash cow for Microsoft, its Office suite has been slow to embrace the consumerization of IT phenomenon -- essentially the advent of network-enabled mobile devices that are powerful and capacious enough to handle computational workloads that were traditionally in the realm of desktop PCs and laptops. This, in turn, has given birth to the "bring your own device" (BYOD) trend that is rewriting the rules of workplace IT.
But there are signs that Microsoft is taking mobility seriously, even if the software maker is dragging its feet on delivering Office for arch rival Apple's tablet.
Windows RT, the ARM processor compatible version of Windows 8 for tablets, will include a touch-optimized version of Office 15. That's right, every forthcoming Windows RT tablet will have Office built-in, an obvious move to attract enterprise customers.
But there are several long weeks before this fall's debut of Windows 8 tablets and Google is looking to give its own Android and cloud productivity apps ecosystem some momentum of its own.
With the Quickoffice buy and subsequent Google App integration, Android tablets and Google's slow-selling Chromebooks stand a better chance of making inroads into MS Office environments before Windows tablets arrive. It also provides businesses whose workers are loathe to ditch their iPads some compelling reasons -- namely MS Office file format compatibility and cloud pricing -- to give the Google Apps platform a closer look.