Google’s Cloud Connect Is a Two-Way Street for Microsoft

Google is trying to build a bridge for Microsoft Office (s msft) workers to cross over to Google Docs (s goog). The search giant released Google Cloud Connect, a plug-in that allows a user to begin a document in Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint and then with a click of the button, share the document on the web via Google Docs. The question is whether this move is a savvy first step to “embrace and extend” by Google in its ongoing efforts to extinguish Office or if it will be a crutch for some existing Office users, allowing them to stay with Microsoft without taking the leap to Google.

Google’s Shan Sinha, Cloud Connect’s product manager said Cloud Connect should provide Office users with a smooth transition to the cloud. Sinha, who came to Google nine months ago when Google bought DocVerse, said Cloud Connect allows users to make the leap to Google Docs without worrying about software installations or updates. Users of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 can sync their documents to Google Docs when they save their work. The doc is given its own URL, which can then be accessed from Google Docs. This includes mobile devices, which Google fully enabled last week. A team of users can collaborate on a document and share revisions. Cloud Connect keeps track of the changes and warns users when their changes conflict with revisions by others. The service is available as a beta preview for Apps for Business customers and will roll out to all users soon. (Sign up here)

Microsoft is also making moves in this area. Microsoft is encouraging users to share documents online using Office Web Apps and Sharepoint, but its efforts still appear aimed at emphasizing Microsoft Office as a PC-based software product. Will Cloud Connect make traditional Office users any more likely to give Google Docs a try? It could introduce Google Docs to some users and give them a peek into Google’s take on cloud computing, but it may fall on deaf ears with many enterprise customers. And it could be a way for some to get the benefits of Google’s cloud services without committing to Google as they wait for Microsoft to expand its cloud efforts.

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