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Is Google Docs Finally Good Enough for Tablets?

February 2, 2012

People have asked for an Android version of Google Docs for a long time, but when they did get it, it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting. The Android version of Google Docs worked only online, and editing was pretty much unusable. It seems that Google is (slowly) responding to user feedback for Google Docs, and they’ve just added an Offline Mode to it, which means that you can continue your work when you don’t have an Internet connection, and it will simply sync everything when you get online. They’ve also improved the tablet experience, and added support for watching the documents in high resolution.

The question remains – is it good enough? Many people still complain that editing is just as unusable as before, that it feels sluggish, that it doesn’t use the new ICS style guide, nor the Android developers’ recommendation to stop using the menu button, and use an action bar instead, and on and on.

I don’t think Google has cared all that much about Google Docs, because over the years I’ve found development of new features to be extremely slow for the web version. I don’t think Microsoft will want to bring Office anytime soon to Android, so Google has a unique opportunity here to create their own dominant Office Suite for Android before Microsoft gets a chance to come to the platform. As Android keeps growing, it will eventually be on over a billion, or maybe over 2 billion devices. Most of those could have Google’s Office Suite.

Perhaps Google doesn’t really care all that much because there really isn’t such a strong monetary motivation for them to compete with Microsoft’s Office. Microsoft makes $17 billion a year from Office alone, and Google is giving their Docs app for free. I’m not arguing against it being free. I think that’s great for us in general. It’s just that they’ll never work on Docs as hard as they work on Search or even on Android. But maybe one day, even if it doesn’t beat Office in features and usability, it still manages to become good enough for 95% of the population. That would still be a great outcome for Docs.