Perhaps because Google won a big contract to provide Office apps to PwC (the large international accounting firm), they have recently launched a PR campaign all over the web for "Google Apps for Work". An example of the PR is this Silicon Alley Insider story, "Google shares its plan to nab 80% of Microsoft's Office business". A sentence in the article caught my attention:
"Google is constantly looking at how people are using Apps and trying to entice them to use it more."
Google is renown for using data in its product analysis, which perhaps makes the above quote mundane. However, I think it points out the problem with Google's approach to software. Data only describes current usage. If we examine saving a file in Google Docs, Google sees it saved online, perhaps Google sees it downloaded to the computing device...but Google never sees it then saved in Dropbox. You might ask why someone would prepare a document in Google Docs and save it in Dropbox. There are probably ten good reasons, none of which show up in Google's user data.
Microsoft recently launched a new Outlook app for iOS 8, which I tweeted :
Nine days later, I think that Outlook is probably the best mail iPhone app ever...and it includes a good calendar app. If the Outlook calendar app had appointment multiple alerts I would stop using a calendar app. What I particularly like about the app is the seamless integration with Dropbox and Google Drive, both of which I use daily. (Dropbox holds the docs I produce and Google Drive holds third party documents.) It also seamlessly integrates Gmail and other mail providers.
I am not a Microsoft fan boy. For many years I competed with them and I intentionally avoided their products. The only nice thing I could say about Microsoft was to my entrepreneurship students--"Microsoft is an excellent example of monopoly, which economists tout as an attractive business model". With the passing of time I have mellowed on Microsoft. (A tweet rather than a full blog post shows that I am still conflicted.) I tried the new iOS Outlook partly because in 25 years of using email, I have never found an email app on any device that I really liked until the new Outlook. However, let's get back to Google.
How was Microsoft able to develop such a great new mail app, while Google is still constrained by its data. The answer is quite simple. Most of the design and code for the new Outlook came through an acquisition, where the previous company was not constrained by the corporate mindset of a Google or Microsoft or F500.
I imagine when the Microsoft execs saw the other company's mail app, they just thought OMG and quickly bought the company. I commend Microsoft for admitting somebody understood the customer better and did a beautiful design. I wish Google would make some app acquisitions, get a better understanding of the user and perhaps learn more about UI design. BTW I use a lot more apps from Google than Microsoft, but I hope that Microsoft's new acquisition has some new ideas for other apps. Today I am less hopeful about Google.