Review: Microsoft Office Online vs. Apple iWork for iCloud vs. Google Drive


Future directionsAlthough Apple, Google, and Microsoft will no doubt disagree, it's not at all clear to me if online office suites have much of a future. They occupy a rather strange niche in the three companies' software lineups.

On the Microsoft side, Office 365 is the moneymaker. With Office for Windows, OS X, and iPad now a reality, it's a foregone conclusion that we'll see Office for AndroidAndroid -- not to mention the widely anticipated touch-first version of Office. In the past, Office Online has served as a surrogate for Office customers who want to go mobile. In the future, Microsoft will no doubt come up with native applications for nearly every platform. Where will that leave Office Online Good question. Alles zu Android auf

Apple has a very different approach. It's building iWork for iCloud to closely mimic the OS X and iPad versions of iWork -- to the point of choking off features in the older versions of iWork in order to present a more unified interface across all of its platforms. Heaven only knows if Apple will build native Windows, Android, or other versions of the iWork apps. One thing's for sure: Apple takes Office compatibility very seriously. As bandwidth increases and browsers get better, perhaps Apple will build out iWork for iCloud and not concern itself with native apps for non-Apple platforms.

Google takes yet another tack. The Google apps are going everywhere, compliments of Chrome and Google's attempt to turn a browser into an operating system. Google is testing the waters by implementing HTML5-based offline access, not only to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and the rest, but to other Chrome apps as well. At the same time, Google has announced Docs and Sheets for iOS and Android; it promises a Slides rendition as well. Right now, the native mobile apps, per InfoWorld's Galen Gruman, "mark a new low." Will they ever grow up to be comparable to their Google Offline brethren All it takes is time and money.

It's fair to say that any of the three online office suites can support almost all office workers, almost all of the time. The sticking point will be the walled garden. If you're passing Word Online documents to someone running Word for Windows, for example, going through OneDrive is easy -- but every other route is hard. Google Drive behaves similarly, but without native desktop applications and with mobile applications that stink, so you're stuck on the Web anyway. Apple makes any kind of rational file manipulation stand-on-your-head-and-pat-your-belly difficult.

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