It's easy to see Google's Docs/Drive product as the company's intended replacement for Microsoft Office. It's in the cloud, it's on their servers, and it doesn't really care about file formats or other Microsoft products.
So why, then, did they buy a product meant for Microsoft-based road warriors?.
Google does, after all, offer an Android client for its Drive product, which can switch between accounts, edit documents, and upload material for Drive conversion. And Google goes out of its way to make its products friendly to iPhones and iPads. So, too, has Google shown its full-steam-ahead approach to the idea of the cloud (their cloud) as the primary workspace with the release of new, improved, Drive-integrated Chromebooks and a Chromebox.
But Quickoffice exists, and has been successful, because there are many kinks along the path to the great Google Apps Skyway. There is the basic offline dilemma, where if you didn't conscientiously prepare for the loss of Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, you can't work on the files stashed in the cloud.
Then there's the problem of other people's formats: your boss sending you a .pptx file, or your wife only being able to export to PDF instead of Word, and so on. And, finally, there's the fact that Google's Docs (now Drive) Android app, and its web interface for Apple devices, is just not a "daily driver" for doing serious edits to documents, spreadsheets, or presentations.
Nearly every Android phone I've personally handled that wasn't a Google-blessed "Nexus" device included a freemium version of Quickoffice, purchased and installed by the manufacturer or carrier to give their customers something to manage their Microsoft Office documents, or at least view them.
From what I've seen, emails with Microsoft Office documents attached can't be opened by Google's Drive app; without Quickoffice or another Office-file-handling app installed. In fact, Android just reports that it can't do anything with the file. That makes your supposedly smart phone feel quite dumb.
So my best reading of the tea leaves is that Quickoffice will do three things for Google, Android, iOS, and in particular for Apps-based customers:
- Built-in Office file conversions: No more worrying if an Office file has an "x" after it, uses weird margins and footers, or otherwise makes you uncertain about its conversion prospects. That's the core code that Quickoffice has developed, and it's what Google bought, and it should arrive in Android, and Docs/Drive, as soon as possible.
- Tighter Drive integration: Wouldn't it be neat if you could pluck an attachment from an email and have it instantly entered into your Drive space, converted for online editing? Google probably thinks so, too.
- Much better offline Docs/Drive capabilities: The Drive app for Android can do some things offline, if you remember to "star" the files you want to work with. Quickoffice can export to Dropbox and pull in files from Docs, but it really shines when you're on a plane, train, or a spot without a good connection. Offline editing and saving is the biggest question mark for Apps users, and Quickoffice can help out a lot in that regard.
What do you think of Google's Quickoffice acquisition? What would you like to see them do with their new offline-friendly mobile editor?
Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.