Google takes another swing at Office

Contact: Brenon Daly

Google has reached for the popular maker of mobile software suite Quickoffice, the fourth notable acquisition the company has made in its effort to take on Microsoft Office. Each of the purchases has given Google specific pieces of technology that have helped draw users away from Office, which stands as the dominant desktop productivity suite and has generated tens of billions of dollars of sales for Microsoft over the past two decades.

Looking to siphon off some of those incredibly high-margin sales, Google has scooped up startups offering online word processing (Upstartle with its Writely program), spreadsheet programs (iRows), as well as collaboration and sharing of Office documents (DocVerse). As it built on those deals over the past six years, Google has always pitched its offering – first in Google Docs, then in Google Apps and now in Google Drive – as a Web-based alternative to the largely desktop-based Office franchise. (Of course, Microsoft also offers a hosted, or cloud, version of its popular suite in the form of Office 365.)

With Quickoffice, Google is shoring up the technology around a productivity suite for the post-PC era, as Quickoffice is installed on more than 400 million devices. In addition to the broad user base, Google also gets some much-needed technology that should help iron out some of the wrinkles that can pop up when converting Microsoft Office documents to Google formats. Additionally, Quickoffice can run Office apps on the iPad, while Microsoft has yet to release an official version of Office for the rival tablet. (It is rumored to be working on one, however.)

While terms of the acquisition weren’t released, we would note that Quickoffice has a rather compelling business model, with an extremely low cost of customer acquisition. It gets paid by licensing its software suite to device makers and then generates business on top of that by upselling customers to subscription offerings. (We understand that ‘aftermarket’ business was running at about $5m a quarter recently.) Not bad for a business that was founded in 1996 inside the recently disappeared Palm Inc. For the record, Google has now acquired pieces of two wireless pioneers: Palm and Motorola Mobility.

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