Google is adding new features to its productivity suite to better compete with Microsoft's Office 365, a subscription-based service that provides access to Microsoft Office programs as well as additional cloud storage and productivity features.
The most significant change is the ability to open and edit Microsoft Office files without having to go through a conversion process. Google purchased QuickOffice, a mobile app for opening Office files, in 2012, and it seems the feature is finally being integrated into Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Microsoft Office has long had a strong hold on the productivity market, especially for businesses. Adding compatibility with Microsoft files makes it easier for businesses and individuals to switch to Google's programs even if some of their associates don't.
"The updated mobile apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides come with Office editing built right in, and our new Chrome extension allows you to edit and share files directly from Google Drive, Gmail or from your Chromebook, where the extension is pre-installed," says Google in a statement. "These updates will be available starting today, but may take a couple of days to fully roll out."
Google is also launching Drive for Work to better compete with Office 365 in the enterprise area. Office 365 currently includes 1 TB of cloud storage, whereas Google Apps for Business includes only 30 GB. The new Drive for Work option, which costs $10 per month instead of the $5 Google Apps charges, includes unlimited cloud storage. File sizes are also effectively unlimited, since the service supports files of up to 5 TB. Drive for Work also adds administrative features to track how employees use Google Drive. Administrators can view which employees viewed, moved, shared or deleted certain files.
A feature called "suggest edit" is being added to all versions of Google Drive. Suggest edit allows users to make an edit which can then be accepted or rejected, restoring the previous version. Office 365 has long included this feature, so Google seems to be playing catch-up here. Google is also offering better communication in an attempt to match that of Office 365. Users can now make comments in a side column, creating a real-time dialogue between the various collaborators working on a particular project. Google has also added encryption to documents sent through or stored on Google Drive to secure sensitive business documents.
Even before these new changes, Google was already converting a surprising number of businesses from Office 365. Google reported that 67 of the top 100 startup companies have "gone Google," as well as 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Whether Google can convince the majority of businesses to switch from tried-and-true Microsoft programs, however, remains to be seen.