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Battle of the Document Cloud Apps: Google Docs, Apple iWorks…Which One Truly Reigns?

Battle of the Document Cloud Apps: Google Docs, Apple iWorks…

Throughout the 1990s, 2000s, and today, Microsoft Word has served as the final word in applications designed to maximize the efficiency and output of both businesses and individual computer users regarding their documents.

Attempts to unseat its status as the number-one program of its kind have been largely futile. Many an erstwhile competitor has been outdone by the thorough richness and ease of use inherent to Word and the other members of the Microsoft Office family, such as Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Both the computing industry and consumers have long registered unanimous agreement in the preeminence of Word.

Then came along cloud computing…

With the development of technologies and applications that made it easy for users to access, interact with, and share their documents via the Internet, a changing of the documents app guard has begun to take place. Microsoft is shaking in their boots at the threat of cloud computing, and the applications thereby launched, to Word — indisputably one of the company’s foremost cash cows.

First came along Google Docs. The allure of Google’s cloud offering is not in its array of features or quality — Microsoft Word clearly trumps Google Docs when it comes to cool and useful attributes. But Google Docs is free for most consumers, cheap for businesses. Folks involved in government or education, especially young people, have immediately latched onto Google Docs’ pragmatic assets and simplicity.

IBM has also released a document application, plainly titled IBM Docs. Yet the wimpy name belies a formidable foe to Microsoft Word: a cloud document application that is just as abundant in nifty features as Word, at a lesser price. Another advantage for IBM is the trust that the company has engendered among business and tech elite. The IBM label makes this document app particularly attractive for those high-end computing consumers and businesses who associate intelligent application design with the potential for greater revenue: a tacit yet key characteristic of IBM’s marketing plan.

Newest to the document cloud app race is Apple’s iWork. It consists of four primary components: spreadsheets, Keynote presentations, word processing, and email. IBM Docs, Google Docs, and Word definitely outrank iWork in terms of familiarity and features. Yet iWork has a teeny weeny benefit: its direct link to the Apple family of computing juggernauts, like the iPad and the Mac.

To counter these threats to its treasured Word and Office Suite, Microsoft released Office 365: essentially a carbon copy of the Office family of products souped up for the cloud. Office 365’s primary advantage is brand recognition, bolstered by an inventively simple and entertaining series of commercial spots, targeted at people who still look to blue skies for their cloud.

So who tops the list of document cloud apps in 2012? The victor is still unclear. Yet at least consumers will benefit as the applications jockey for leadership.

By Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman

Jeff Norman is a freelance writer currently based in New York City. He's moved into writing about cloud computing from substantial work in culture and the arts. He earned his undergraduate degree in English at Stanford and has studied at Oxford and Cambridge.