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Machine Learning : Article

Yet Another Half-App From Google

The only reason I use Google now is force of habit, not quality of results

Kevin Hoffman's Blog

The last time I took a look at the list of products Google had to offer, my eyes glazed over and I just kept moving. The list of stuff they've got cooking was two scrolling pages long. The odd part was that the only things I ever use from Google are search and gmail, I've rarely ever touched any of the other stuff.

So when I saw today that they've got a Powerpoint clone to add to their suite of online office applications, I took a look at some analysis of the features. In short, it works just like all of the other Google applications - take the features used 75% of the time by office application users and put them online and throw away the other 25%. While Microsoft has some pretty good FUD surrounding this particular design choice, they do have a point - the problem with picking 75% to implement is deciding which 75% to implement. While it might be true that most users rarely utilize more than 50% of the features in their office applications, it is also true that those users often utilize different sets of features.

So we've got Google docs, a web-based document editor that can read write (with some degree of inaccuracy) word files. We've got Google spreadsheets, a web-based spreadsheet. And now we've got an online presentation builder. While I think there's a lot of people who like this kind of thing, it's a complete disconnect from how I work.

When I am writing a word document, there is a 90% chance I consider that word document private. I am either working on something for an article, or something for a book, or something for my company. Most companies don't allow you to work on docs for the company on servers outside the company, regardless of the privacy policy in place. In short, Google docs, presentation, and spreadsheet are completely useless for doing anything company-related. I don't do spreadsheets for fun, and when I'm writing actual documents for fun, I am using Pages '08. period. If I need a central place to store files as a backup, I'll use X-drive or Amazon's offering, not an actual application.

Google's apps suffer from the same problem all web applications (not sites) suffer from. If you're in the middle of a big huge honkin' text entry and you accidentally hit the back button or you lose your connection or accidentally close the browser - there's easliy a dozen ways to completely screw your day by losing important segments of a document. I much prefer to work on a local hard drive and if I need to make a document available to me in multiple places, I'm going to use my .Mac shared disk, an X-drive, or some other shared storage provider. At this point, myself and a lot of people like me have absolutely no use for web-based applications that perform some subset of office features, often poorly at that.

What I need is a rich desktop application that can save files to my hard drive and if I need to make a shared copy, I can save to a shared location. If Google gave me a good "Save As..." location from inside my MS Word or Pages '08 application, I might use it. Until then, I see these new apps from Google as just more crap to ignore while I go about my business.

I haven't been impressed with anything I've seen Google put out since I started using their search engine. And to be honest, there's a couple search engines that lately have gotten so good that the only reason I use Google now is force of habit, not quality of results.

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More Stories By Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman, editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's iPhone Developer's Journal, has been programming since he was 10 and has written everything from DOS shareware to n-tier, enterprise web applications in VB, C++, Delphi, and C. Hoffman is coauthor of Professional .NET Framework (Wrox Press) and co-author with Robert Foster of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed. He authors The .NET Addict's Blog at .NET Developer's Journal.

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