Old Docs, New Tricks: Google Cloud Embraces MS Office Files
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Google says it’s teaching old docs new tricks with today’s launch of Google Cloud Connect – a free service that slyly enables users of Microsoft Office applications to work together on the same documents online without needing Microsoft’s extra-cost SharePoint service, and encourages them to try the low-cost Google Apps.

(Google introduced the Cloud Connect service to Australian journalists yesterday after insisting they sign a non-disclosure agreement that expired at 4am today. But the NDA was extinguished, at least in the eyes of journos, when the story appeared on the Wall Street Journal Web site, and was quickly picked up by The Australian).

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office lets two or more people work together on the same file at the same time in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on Windows PCs; Mac Office users must await a future development.

The Office docs are transferred to Google’s servers – the “cloud” – where they can be accessed by multiple users who can edit them collaboratively in real-time.

In the Sydney demo, Anil Sabharwal ,Google A/NZ’s head of Apps product management, showed users in one office typing in a Word document, with the changes showing up instantly in another office. Users could also easily edit PowerPoint slides.

What’s the advantage over Office combined with SharePoint, Sabharwal was asked. He exclaimed simply: “This is free!”

It isn’t the only free thing going. With documents stored in Google’s cloud, it’s a pretty simple matter to move to Google Apps – and Google is making it even easier and cheaper with its “90-day Appsperience” offer which enables companies and groups to have a three-month free trial of Apps. Google Apps for Business normally costs $50 per user per month.