MS Word is playing catch up with Google Docs

Microsoft launched MS Word Online in 2020.
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In the last decade, Microsoft Word and Google Docs have been battling it out for the coveted title of ‘Best Word Processor’. MS Word has been around for almost three decades (launched on 25 October 1983).

Meanwhile, the cloud-based Google Docs was launched in 2006. 

Google Docs has risen in popularity and has been eating into the market share of Microsoft Word. In an interview in 2020, G Suite boss Javier Soltero said Google’s G Workplace ( previously G Suite), which includes Google Docs, had over 2 billion active monthly users by the end of 2019. 

On the other hand, Office 365 is used by over a million companies worldwide, with over 879,851 companies in the US alone using the office suite software. Interestingly, Soltero worked at Microsoft before joining Google. 

Is MS Word losing the battle?

Microsoft Word was launched in the era of printers and fax machines. It started its life as a formatting tool for text.

Meanwhile, Google Docs burst into the scene in the age of the cloud. Unlike MS Word, you don’t have to install Docs on your computer, and it works on your browser.

According to a 2021 Gartner report, Google’s productivity software market share grew 10.3 percent year on year in 2020. Meanwhile, Google continues to grow from a low base and takes 1 to 2 percent of market share annually. That said, Microsoft is still the market leader.

More and more organisations are now moving to Google Docs because it’s cloud-based. Google Docs is also accessible from any device, and also it’s free. On the other hand, Microsoft Word is not free and comes as part of the Microsoft 365 package. Excel is a part of Microsoft 365. And chances are, most organisations are spending money on Microsoft 365 just for Excel.

Given the rising popularity of Google Docs, Microsoft launched MS Word Online in 2020, but not all features are available on the online version.

Market share of major office suites technologies in the US as of October 2020

(Source: Statista)

Microsoft fiascos

Products and services from Microsoft such as Outlook, MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel used to be indispensable in an office space. However, a lot has changed lately.

Recently, after 27 years, Microsoft discontinued its support for Internet Explorer. The death of Internet Explorer is a prime example of Microsoft’s lack of innovation. There was a time when Internet Explorer was the most used browser globally.

Between 2002 and 2003, Internet Explorer had around 95 percent market share. Google Chrome did not even exist back then. Now, Internet Explorer is dead, and Chrome owns a market share of around 65 percent.

Google Docs was able to take the fight to Microsoft and capture the markets once dominated by Microsoft. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s search engine Bing turned out to be a damp squib.

From an innovation perspective, Microsoft is not blazing new trails but following in the footsteps of Google. For example, Microsoft launched Word online years after the launch of Google Docs.

Microsoft is moving from the legacy products it’s once known for and doubling down on the cloud and AI. The company is committing resources to futuristic tech, and it seems like tools like Word have no place in its roadmap.

Silver lining

Recently, Microsoft announced it is working on an MS Word upgrade which will allow users to edit, review, and view their documents in Word for Windows.

Meanwhile, these features are already available on Google Docs, further strengthening the argument that the former is now playing catch up with Google. A few days back, Microsoft said its popular predictive typing feature would soon come to Word on Mac, which again is available on Google Docs.

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Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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