Google is looking at Java based online office suite despite of having Docs & Spreadsheets!
Computerworld reviewed online office suites Ajax13, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, ThinkFree Office Online and Zoho Office Suite . The winner is ThinkFree and the runner is Zoho, same as I mentioned in my previous blog Google is not the leader in Ajax applications.
The reason to pick ThinkFree was:
It looks more like a full application: menus, a rich toolbar, a ruler bar and even a drawing toolbar similar to Word’s for inserting elements such as AutoShapes, text boxes, clip art, and pictures.
In fact, ThinkFree’s Power Edit menu reveals a startling number of word processing features, from columns and drop caps to AutoCorrect and table manipulation, such as merging cells, distributing cells evenly across the page, repeating header rows.
ThinkFree hides your browser’s menu bar, so when you use familiar keyboard shortcuts (such as Alt+F, O for File/Open), you are operating within the ThinkFree interface, not your browser. Other similarities to Microsoft Office are downright eerie — the charting wizard in ThinkFree Calc looks just like Excel’s and supports all of Excel’s chart types.
Think free offers their word processor in two flavors: Quick Edit and Power Edit. Quick edit is Ajax version of the editor which offers a minimal interface — a few toolbar buttons for simple editing and some other features. All above features(listed in block quote) are only available in Power mode which is Java(applet) based. They used Java for more complex functions and for deeper Microsoft compatibility. However, initially the Power Edit takes time to load as it has to download the applet.
So the question is, why can’t they support all Power Edit(Java) features in Quick Edit(Ajax)? According to ThinkFree CEO TJ Kang:
Currently the best way to offer advanced Web Office functionality is to utilize Java. Ajax doesn’t cut it when it comes to advanced functionality. Although in theory you can build it in Ajax, the resulting code will be so big that it will take ages to download stuff and slow the system considerably. So Java is, much more efficient than Ajax when it comes to implementing Microsoft Office-like functionality.
Since they have both Ajax and Java versions, I don’t think his comments are biased towards Java. At the same time don’t forget that initial download time of an Applet is significant and browser needs a Java plugin.
In other prospective, Google is not in the top 2 list of the online office products, because:
High-end documents don’t render properly because Google Docs isn’t 100% Word-compatible, nor does it claim to be.
Google Spreadsheets has a few compatibility issues with Excel (array formulas aren’t supported, for example), and its lack of charting support is a disappointment.
However, even Google Inc. may be ready to admit that its office applications aren’t ready to take on Microsoft.
For Google, its clear that it cannot compete with the Microsoft with its Docs & Spreadsheets. Unless they support all MS office features, it’s difficult for Google to win the race. Perhaps, it’s difficult for them to support all the functionality and MS office compatibility with their current approach(Ajax). So here are the options for Google to win the race:
1. Support all the functionality with Ajax even though the resultant code is going to be big and ages to download
2. Despite of initial download time, rewrite online office suite utilizing Java .
3. Buy ThinkFree
Guys, what you think? Based on Google’s recent acquisitions, do you think that their option will be 3? You are right, they are already in talks with ThinkFree.
Google is reportedly in talks with a South Korean software company and its US subsidiary ThinkFree, which makes browser-based office productivity software compatible with Microsoft file formats.
ThinkFree is a subsidiary of Haansoft, which is based in Seoul. Haansoft’s CEO, Baek Jong-jin, said he met twice this month with Google’s corporate development team responsible for the $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube, the English-language newspaper Korea Times reported on Sunday.
I think definitely this move is adding fuel to the ThinkFree’s Java approach. But I believe both have advantages & disadvantages and it depends on what functionality you are trying to achieve it. For example, Java makes life easier to do image handling and animations. On the other hand, ajax is much faster and no plugin is needed. So if your web app is going to have much advanced features such as image handling etc. definitely Java is more efficient than Ajax.
What do you think? Do you agree with ThinkFree CEO TJ Kang? Do you think Google realized that they cannot achieve the advanced functionality with Ajax? Or do you think they are talking with ThinkFree as a part of their acquisition strategy? If you know any Java apps that are powerful than Ajax apps, please add in comments.
Update 1: Fellow blogger Paul Browne wrote ‘Do Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java?‘. Please do remember that he is talking about the server side Java and I am talking about the client side Java(Applets).
Update 2: Trimmed the title as per Tim’s suggestion. Thank you Tim.