Google Docs and Spreadsheets Interview

Interesting podcast interview by Gizbuzz, with Jen Mazzon and Sam Schillace of the Google Docs and Spreadsheets team (both ex-Writely). They start off by saying that D&S is aimed at "people who need to collaborate and share their stuff online". To the question of whether people are using it instead of desktop apps (such as Excel), Jen said that "it's designed to enable people to work together online really seamlessly and easily - and if you're just creating something in a vacuum, then you might as well use a desktop and an offline application. But the minute that you need to start getting contributions and input from other people, then it's [D&S] a great solution."

I've written before about how collaboration and sharing are two compelling reasons for Web-based office software, but it's great to hear it from the horse's mouth (Google I mean).

Enterprise not their focus...yet

Another interesting tidbit from the interview was Jen's statement that "enterprise really hasn't been our key focus" - what they've been focusing on is everyday people, consumers, small workgroups and so forth. She doesn't rule out focusing on enterprise in the near future, but "it has not been top of mind".

Integration is coming

The question of integration came up. Sam said they will be integrating D&S with other Google apps - and that the Web makes this easy, with XML and similar open standards. He said "you're going to see more and more integration going forward. All of Google's apps will work better and better together, going forward."

Browser compatibility issues - like the early graphic Web

Next was a question about browser compatibility issues and how that affects D&S - and indeed the future of rich web applications. Sam responded that "it is definitely an issue [...] these apps are all cutting edge - it kind of reminds me of the early days of the graphical web, when you couldn't count on the browsers to render tables correctly [...]".

But he thinks it's "just growing pains" and it'll take about a year to sort those issues out.

Also on the question of whether Ajax is better than Flash and Laszlo etc, Sam thinks that Ajax is currently more web native.

It's about being Web native, not cloning desktop apps

Later in the interview, Jen stresses that they're "not trying to clone desktop apps". They want to be familiar to people, "but we're trying to do something that's actually more native to the Internet, more usable on the Internet."

Sam says they've had a lot of feedback that people like the fact they're not trying to copy desktop apps. He said "copying the existing stuff just feels irrelevant to us - we're not trying to copy, we're trying to re-invent."

Both Jen and Sam re-affirmed that collaboration and sharing is their main focus with D&S, as well as being web native - rather than trying to compete on features with desktop apps.

Note: there are sound problems with the podcast, which makes it an uncomfortable recording to listen to at times. But the interview itself was great and very informative, so well done Gizbuzz.

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