Eric Schmidt
Eric Schmidt

Why use Google Docs over Microsoft Word? According to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, there’s a very simple answer.

As a part of CNN’s ongoing “Chicagoland” documentary series, cameras followed Schmidt, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and IBM exec Stanley Litow into one of Chicago’s IBM-funded technical schools. As a part of the executives’ visit, a teacher asked the class why they should use Google Docs, and a grinning Schmidt chimed in with: “Because it’s free!”

While he had already spent time establishing the service’s bona fides, saying that he wrote a book with Jared Cohen using Google Docs, Schmidt’s comment highlights one of the risks Microsoft faces in the academic world. While Microsoft has started offering schools incentives to use Office 365, including free licenses for their pupils, the company is under greater pressure from its competitors. As more schools like Chicago’s face budget shortfalls, free and discounted products from companies like Google and Apple, especially when attached to financial assistance, start looking better and better.

Apple, too, has a lot to gain with Microsoft’s stumbles. The iPad is a leading choice for educators looking to add tablets to their curriculum, and Apple’s free iWork suite provides productivity tools that are good enough for most academic uses. Microsoft looks like it could make a comeback in that arena soon, though: the company’s stock price soared to a 14-year high yesterday following rumors that the company plans to unveil a version of Office for the iPad next week.

It’s clear that there’s a demand for Microsoft’s services on Apple products, too: When Microsoft started offering a free version of its OneNote note taking software on the Mac App Store this week, it reached the top free spot on the store’s most downloaded charts on its first day of availability.

Not everyone is thrilled with businesses’ involvement in schools, though. Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, said that she’d rather see companies pay more in taxes and fund schools that way, rather than relying on their charity or free software.

Here’s the clip from the show.

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  • Guest

    Source code, Mr. Schmidt?


    LibreOffice it is, then.

    • Mike_Acker

      from what I’ve read msft muscled ISO into adopting their OOXML specification as an ISO standard,….. but while holding certain of its patents in reserve, stipulating that the patented stufff was not to be used in any software that would be given out for free

      last time i tested a .ODT (not .DOCX) document from LibreOffice to msft/office msft office declared my test document was ‘corrupted’

      I should get busy and test a few objects between LibreOffice and Google/Docs . the only way to make the windmill run right is move the office standard from under the windmill into the public . the ISO standard is the right way to do it,– “IMHO” just like W3C is supposed to set web standards. but do Google, MSFT, and Mozilla all follow the standard carefully ? I don’t think so .

  • FrankCatalano

    “Free” rarely, truly, completely is. Take, for example, the report from SafeGov recently that Google admits to data mining student emails in Google Apps for Education (even though ad serving is turned off):

    It’s not that any nefarious use is claimed now or may even occur in the future. But consumer-level privacy policies, when applied to education products, could have unintended consequences.

  • JBishop

    Erm… What is Word Online? Seems to me it’s a FREE online version of Office Word. Oh and look, they have a FREE Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. Oh and there’s my calendar and my email and my contacts and OneDrive…

  • Guest

    But then you get into the business environment and everyone uses Office and you will be lost. Sorry, if another intern looks at me tells me that they can’t the spreadsheet because it isn’t what they use in school, I might burst.

    • Learn*nix

      Our tech company doesn’t use Office, or any Microsoft products for that matter. Maybe “everyone” within the Redmond distortion field does, but that’s not the case everywhere. I also rarely see Windows Laptops anymore in the wild.

      • balls187

        cool story bro

        • Slaggggg

          Learn*nix just got served.

      • J Epping

        You’re in a vacuum. There are vacuums everywhere, most notably in Redmond to be sure, but they exist elsewhere like at your company. Did you know that there are more Windows 8 licenses sold to users in the trailing 12 months than have ever sold iPads total worldwide since 2009?

        • Mike

          200 Million copies of Windows 8 sold as of Feb 2014. 400 Million iOS devices as of 2012. 350 Million active Gmail users who all have access to Google Docs for $0. You do the math.

  • Michael Brian Bentley
  • J Epping

    I think that an informed post about Docs vs Office should mention of a cloud-based Microsoft offering that competes directly with Docs. It’s called Office Online and it’s also free.

    It’s robust, adds features every few months, allows collaboration, and is much more polished than Docs. Docs has good features, especially if you’re on Android a lot which would make Docs the better choice given Google’s refusal to support MS mobile platforms. But please Blair include very relevant information in your post.

  • mod.u lar

    “…said that she’d rather see companies pay more in taxes and fund schools that way, rather than relying on their charity or free software.”

    Plus, it is really difficult to skim-from-the-top/embezzle “charity or free software.”
    Slush funds and coffers must be filled – and who better to fill them than tax payers?

  • MightyMoo

    That’s right kids, Google Docs is free. Never you mind now that they can skim those saved documents for valuable marketing data to give to advertisers about you.

    Ah the farming of American youth. So precious, so valuable, so exploitable.

    • jakesdad

      right, b/c microsoft would NEVER do such a thing IN ADDITION to charging you would they?

  • jakesdad

    people use office purely out of habit. I’ve used word since 2.0 & excel since 3.0 (both on windows 3.0) but the reality is they’ve become grossly overpriced thermonuclear overkill for the vast majority of needs. google really nailed 3 important things w/docs:

    1. 80/20 functionality
    2. collaboration (they knocked this out of the park!)
    3. platform agnostic

    my last company converted to them & it was fantastic! I wish my current one would…

  • HeywoodFloyd

    “Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, said that she’d rather see companies pay more in taxes and fund schools that way, rather than relying on their charity or free software.” ‘Cause products just don’t work as well when given freely as when their makers are coerced into giving them to you.

  • hwangeruk

    Office Online just like Google Docs is free. What is Schmidt smoking. He’s odd and an alleged thief. Jobs was rightly appalled at the outrageous cloning of iOS into Android. Hence Schmidt’s removal from the Apple board, Apple Maps and the rest of recent history. Schmidt is a total douche.

  • samy

    Happen to read story about Microsoft reading your emails?

    No thanks for online office. May be good for students or if you are not concerned with your privacy.

    My 2 cents.

  • Amino

    In my opinion, the main reasons why users still buy – or rent – the expensive Microsoft Office are:

    1) Word (doc, docx), Excel (xls, xlsx), and PowerPoint (ppt, pptx) represent the global standard office formats, and users are afraid, they can’t handle these
    formats perfectly with an alternative office suite.

    2) Idleness. Since MSO was / is the standard office suite which most users
    privately and / or professionally used to work with, they prefer
    sticking to the “original” insted of dealing with a completely different structure, interface, and other functionalities.

    Google Docs might be free, but it’s different in usage, and its compatibility is not lossless, formatting of most Microsoft Office files is screwed up more or less.

    I think the best alternative is SoftMaker Office Professional. It’s not free, but low-priced, and in contrast to Google Docs, it has an excellent compatibility with all Microsoft Office formats. It opens every Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file quickly and displays it faithfully. And its Interface is familiar to that of MS Office 2003 (no ribbons), with several modern extensions such as tabs for multiple pages, navigation bar etc., so there’s not too much of a learning curve.

    These two points make it easy to change from Microsoft Office to SoftMaker Office, save a lot of money, get a better support, and almost the same sccope of features.

  • kelly1519

    Google historically depended on its several
    advertising platforms for more than 90% of its revenues, but that share has
    declined slightly since the acquisition of Motorola in 2012

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