Google Docs to surpass Office in a year

Now this is interesting. Comments from Google’s president of the enterprise division indicate he believes that Google Docs will “reach a ‘point of capability’ next year that it will serve the ‘vast majority’s needs.'”

He acknowledged that Docs is currently “much less mature” than Google Mail or Calendar. “We know it. We wouldn’t ask people to get rid of Microsoft Office and use Google Docs because it is not mature yet,” he said.

But this is expected to change in about a year, after the company’s introduces another “30 to 50” updates.

Less mature by a long shot in my experience. Every time I’ve tried to edit spreadsheets using the software I’ve thrown my hands up in frustration very early on in each attempt. Granted, I think I’m nearing the stage of “advanced” Excel user (I should hope I am by now anyway), but I find the assertion that Google Docs will be eclipsing Office in only a year’s time to be unbelievable.

We shall see once those 30-50 updates are released into the wild. For now, hang on to your desktop office suite if you’re producing professional documents.

Has anyone else attempted to use Google Docs (or Zoho) to replace Office for professional work? How did it turn out?

Who audits Google?

Sometimes I wonder to myself who audits this company or that one. I thought I was the only one, but apparently I’m not.

I track search terms used to arrive at this site using 103bees.com. It’s a good complement to Google Analytics. One of the latest questions someone asked, and came to my site seeking the answer, was “which accounting firm audits google?”

Well, intrepid reader, wherever you are, the answer is Ernst & Young.

Google went public in 2004, and their annual reports since then are available on their Investor Relations website.

In auditing, the audit report date is the date on which fieldwork is substantially complete. I think it’s interesting to note from Google’s 2004 Annual Report, the audit report is dated January 28, 2005 for a December 31, 2004 year end. That’s a really tight deadline, and I would imagine some late nights were involved.

I’m heading into a job on Monday that is very tight deadline-wise as well, and there will be some late nights there and lots of accompanying Thai takeout eaten. The job lasts for three weeks and is essentially an early taste of busy season. Blogging may be affected.

Anyway, the 2005 audit report is dated March 10, 2006, a much more manageable schedule. The 2006 report is dated February 27, 2007. Interesting that it has shifted around so much over these three years.

Google’s 20% time at accounting firms?

It’s well known that Google encourages their employees to spend roughly equal to one day per week pursuing personal projects, or about 20% of their time at work. The results of this unique policy are numerous and successful: Gmail, Google Suggest, Google News, AdSense and Orkut.

Google logoWhat would happen if an accounting firm allowed their knowledge workers to devote time to personal projects? Would great new ideas surface for snagging new clients, serving existing clients in better ways, or improving processes within the office? I think they would, but it would definitely require some discipline to set aside that much work time away from client work.

I think the benefits from this type of system could be achieved at an accounting firm without needing 20% of available working hours. All that is needed is a method for sharing the ideas with everyone in the organization and a loose structure for obtaining approval to put the idea or plan into action. A wiki on the intranet would be simple to set up and, since they are editable by anyone with access, enable everyone to participate right away.

Google describes “the engineer’s life at Google” with reference to the following pledges:

We listen to every idea, on the theory that any Googler can come up with the next great one.
We provide the resources to turn great ideas into reality.
We offer our engineers “20-percent time” so that they’re free to work on what they’re really passionate about.

I think it would be a bigger challenge to create the type of environment that Google has meticulously cultivated since its inception at an established accounting firm. It’s all too easy to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, not unlike following last year’s audit plan, in firms. But I believe great things can be accomlished by a firm willing to break out of the mould and take the cue from Google.

Spreadsheets: My thoughts on EditGrid

I recently tried out EditGrid, in response to a post by Dennis on recent enhancements. I had already been using Google Spreadsheets a little bit, but not too much, because, quite frankly, it just wasn’t all that intuitive. I consider myself a fairly advanced Excel user, and Google Spreadsheets just didn’t have the same level of ease of use.

EditGrid screenI blogged about Google’s spreadsheets app before, but never from a personal point of view. I barely used the thing. I had a few random sheets up which I’d authored in Excel, but never really did much editing of them.

(Google Gears may allow one to use the application offline in the future. I think we may see more business usage when this happens. Currently Google Gears is offered for Reader only.)

So, I was open to other options. I’d already decided that I was going to move all my personal documents online, since I didn’t have anything all that confidential personally to protect. My financial data isn’t stored in Excel and if it was, I might be hesitant to upload those files.

I work with Excel so much for work, I thought it would be hard for a web app to make a positive impression on me by comparison. But right away EditGrid presented me with an interface that looks and works reassuringly similar to Excel. The top menu even has those familiar options: File, Edit, View, Format, Insert and Data!

EditGrid looks so much like Excel it is really easy for someone familiar with Microsoft’s spreadsheet software to jump right in and be productive right away, which is something I couldn’t say about Google Spreadsheets. Google succeeds in simplifying every piece of software it releases, but I actually think EditGrid’s strategy works better for what is still a pretty geeky type of software.

And it can’t hurt having some information not firmly in the clutches of Google.

Right now I think EditGrid is a more complete spreadsheet app compared to Google’s, but both still trail Excel in features and ease of use. I’m hoping they can close the gap sooner rather than later.

Google improves Analytics and now I’m in on it!

This weekend was the first long weekend of the summer here in Canada. On Fridays before long weekends at my firm we get the afternoons off, so around 1pm everyone clears out and gets an early start on the rest of the cubicle dwellers around the Greater Toronto Area.

I took the opportunity to do a little shopping for a new mouse at Future Shop. My old mouse had for whatever reason stopeped functioning properly. For the rcord, Microsoft mice have failed on me twice now, so I went with Logitech this time.

I also decided to splurge on a year’s subscription to Flickr, since it was so reasonably priced at about $25 USD. I hit the limit on the free account a while back. It’s useful as a blogger because I use it to host images I want to use in blog posts, such as the one in this post, and it doesn’t use up my bandwidth.

But I digress. Point is, when I got home from shopping, unwrapped and plugged in my shiny new mouse and by chance decided to check out my site statistics, I noticed that Google had upgraded my Analytics account to their new beta!

Analytics New Beta

The whole package is still freely available to anyone who has a Google account and a website. The graphics have been tweaked, but it’s the functionality improvements where the new Analytics really impresses. For example, the geographical breakdown now allows you to drill down from a map of the globe down to a specific US state or Canadian province.

Canada Analytics

Unsurprisingly, most of my traffic comes from Toronto and the surrounding area. Most of my US traffic originates from the most populous states: California, New York and Texas. It’s also interesting to see the browser and operating system breakdown of my visitors. Most still use Internet Explorer despite its deficiencies, but 31% using Firefox on all operating systems is above average:

Browsers and OS

The title of this post refers to the phasing-in of the new Analytics. Google announced the new version a few weeks ago but has been moving everyone over on a relaxed time frame, assumably to catch any bugs or glitches otherwise missed. So I’ve known for a while what was coming, but didn’t know when!

Google has also put together a video tour of the new features.