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Microsoft Office Live Workspace vs. Google Docs: Who will win?

Microsoft Office Live Workspace and Google Docs are going mano a mano over on ReadWriteWeb, where a comparison of the two online services has sparked quite the debate among users.

Desmond from LostMicrosoft released a public beta of Office Live Workspace yesterday, the same day I covered a Google Enterprise exec’s speech in Boston. The exec, Matthew Glotzbach, gave a demo of Google Apps — the enterprise version of Google Docs.

His basic premise: Google is easy to use but still offers the vast majority of features that the vast majority of business users need to do their jobs. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication was that Microsoft can be confusing and overwhelming, much like last week’s episode of “Lost.”

Anyway, ReadWriteWeb’s Sarah Perez evaluated Microsoft Office Live Workspace and Google Docs and came to this conclusion: “Although it’s very close when it comes to basic features of the two services, each stands out in its own way.” But proponents of each service don’t see a close battle at all.

Pro-Google reader “Jrome,” for example, commented that “Google Docs is far better than Office Live, especially thanks to its real-time collaboration and mobile access.” He also pointed out that Office Live Workspace requires users to have Microsoft Office installed on their computers, which goes against the very premise of “cloud computing.”

Meanwhile, a reader named “Brian” defended Microsoft: “In the real-world, Google Docs, Open Office and Ubuntu, etc. are so far behind it’s pathetic. Who uses this stuff for actual work? Absolutely no one that I know of, and MS Office works so well there’s minimal incentive to change.”

That last sentence is key. Before I covered Glotzbach yesterday at the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) International Exposition and Conference, I got to see a speech by The New York TimesDavid Pogue. He also talked about the trend toward simpler technology, but he made it a point to say that simplicity alone will not guarantee a product’s success.

iPodPogue said the iPod sacrificed several features of other portable music players, like a radio tuner, when it debuted. The iPhone similarly gave up on traditional phone features, such as a keypad. Both succeeded. But in a lot of other cases, Pogue said users aren’t willing to give up extra features — even features that they rarely if ever use.

Google Docs gets rid of some of those features. It also adds a lot of features that were pretty impressive to see during Glotzbach’s demo. We’ll just have to wait and see if those features, and Google Docs’ easy-to-use interface, can push Google to do for enterprise applications what the iPod did for MP3 players.

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