Blog Post

Enter Zenter, Google Office is now complete

Google has snapped up yet another start-up – Zenter, which is building online presentations. This is yet-another-exit for YCombinator, the madrassa of the Web 2.0 crowd. In Microsoft world those are known as PowerPoints. Google had earlier bought Tonic Systems, a start-up that was working on similar technology but was more focused on backend technology. With this acquisition, Google has completed its online productivity suite – Docs, SpreadSheets, Calendar, Mail and Presentations. Now they are on equal footing with Zoho. (Check out the comparison between various online office suites over on ReadWriteWeb.)

The problem is that unless Google figures out a way to create a seamless integration between these online apps, these will all have limited utility. The other aspect of the Google Apps which the search giant needs to address is usability and interface. A lot of people like their minimalist approach to UI, but not me personally. Similarly, like many GMail users we are still unconvinced about Google’s ability to provide an always-on service, and ensure the safety of data.

13 Responses to “Enter Zenter, Google Office is now complete”

  1. spresent


    So there needs to be a creative and happy medium between the two.

    There are 2 ways:
    – replicate application from desktop platform to the Web platform
    – invent and design from scatch for the Web.

    I would like to see more new apps in the 2nd category. Browser itself was not a replica of off-line app. And so everything within the browser could be different from desktop apps.

    Our customers thank us for being different from PowerPoint. They say – everybody is tired of PPT presentations. So they don’t need a PPT clone – even in the browser.


  2. thedanielrichard

    I am looking forward to using their Presentation software. Most of my forms and documents are now being created using MS Powerpoint as they have more flexible control on the layout (yes, that’s apart from the presentation creation which the software’s mainly made for).

    To see Google’s development in this area is going to be pretty exciting. :)

  3. Lauren Kao-Wright

    That’s why I like Desktoptwo. I’ve been a user since it launched in August and it really does work well. Moreover, they focus precisely on the shortcomings of Google with regard to “usability and interface,” as you note in your post. Desktoptwo is a unified interface (all in one browser) in which all of the applications talk to each other and interact. There’s drag&drop functionality and full interoperability. Also, you can have multiple applications open at the same time. They talk about “mimicking” a local PC on their website and I happen to think they’ve come the closest of any company out there.

    FYI, I DO NOT work for the company but I am a fan of what they’re doing. I have also corresponded with their CEO, Joshua Rand, who is always very forthcoming and honest about their successes and failures and who obviously cares a great deal for their users. I appreciate that very much.

  4. Sergio

    Om, you bring up a good point as well. I think that there are still a number of potential users that do not use many of the features that MS Office offers, and really only need a bare-bones word processor or spreadsheet. (Perhaps I was too hasty to shoot it down completely.) In particular, students come to mind.

    There may still be a good market for online office suites, but I seriously doubt that Microsoft has anything to worry about. However, I do think that Microsoft could score a big win by better integrating communal editing into it’s current offerings. I think one of the killer features of online office apps is the ability to collaboratively edit documents in real time. It seems like a fairly simple integration for MS, so why don’t they get with the program already?

  5. edkohler

    Sergio raises an interesting point. However, I think the value of online apps isn’t their comparable power, but their ability to change how people work. Personally, I can’t stand creating documents in Word since sharing them with other people is such a pain. Handling revisions sucks compared to sharing a single online document.

    My biggest concern about online docs is one that Om mentioned above: reliability. Perhaps things like Google Gears will help solve this by allowing people to work offline when connections break, but that’s yet to be seen.

  6. Sergio,

    Good points, and to answer your question: yes I have used the office suite in work setting and yes, that it is great application – though I never use like 95% of the features except on power point.

    excel – an online version, there is good chance i am never using that. word processing software online – that is good enough online and I am beginning to use it more and more.

    I think the richness of the desktop app can’t be denied, however, there are some serious issues with the bloat.

    So there needs to be a creative and happy medium between the two.

  7. Sergio

    I really don’t get it. Om, have you ever seriously used Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in an office setting? I’m starting to doubt that you and the other industry bloggers ever have. If you did, you would undoubtedly realize that the current online ‘office suites’ offered by the likes of Google and Zoho are pretty much ineffectual. Put more explicitly–they suck. They remind me of word processing in the days of Apple IIc. They may be fine for jotting down some ideas or making a collaborative shopping list, but they will never, in their current state, be rich enough to gain any real momentum with serious businesses.

    Google and Zoho would have to, more or less, replicate the complexity and richness of MS Office in an online environment. Can you imagine how slowly MS Office would run when beamed across the Net?! This whole online office thing is just a pipe dream, and it seems you all are blindly on board.

  8. Saul Lieberman

    “Enter Zenter, Google Office is now complete”

    In Yiddish, a “zenter” refers to the 10th man to arrive to the synagogue and complete the quorum required for congregational prayer.

  9. GuyNamedNate

    If it turns in to anything like Google Docs or Google Spreadsheets, count me out. Maybe if they utilize Google Gears to make it a desktop app with web connectivity (more like Powerpoint is today) then it might be interesting to me, but I’m not holding my breath.

  10. Are Google really buying the technology, or are they buying motivated people with the ideas and the hunger for making the best office applications in their respective markets? If Zenter didn’t make it out of private beta (which, as far as I’m aware, they didn’t), I’m going with the later. Google employees just won’t pursue this space to the extent that the startup founders will.

    This would also suggest the Google Apps ‘acquisition integration’ team should be more concerned with getting the right people, rather than getting streamlined technology. Could you reasonably expect several completely separate applications to coalesce into an enterprise level office suite?