GSpreadsheets: I Don’t Get It

JOSH: I don’t get it.
PAUL: What exactly don’t you get?
JOSH: It turns from a building into a robot, right?
PAUL: Precisely.
JOSH: Well, what’s fun about that?
    — Big (1988)

Okay, I’ve now tried Google Spreadsheets for a spell, and while it’s nice and all … it isn’t a Gmail-style rethink of the spreadsheet category. It isn’t clear how/where ads would fit into the model; and it also isn’t much more, feature-wise, than Numsum+. So, I don’t get it.

At the risk of agreeing twice today with Nick Carr, Google Spreadsheets currently seems like a big, wet kiss to Microsoft.


  1. Haven’t used spreadsheets yet, but writely is a very serious kick in the teeth to the Sharepoint team, if not the Office team. I assume spreadsheet will be the same way.

  2. Franklin Stubbs says:

    Maybe Google is making the public their test market. Come up with new stuff on a steady-stream basis, gauge public reaction, and dig in to the stuff that gets traction.
    If this is their business model, it might be harder to evaluate by more conventional standards. Nine so-so products in a row don’t matter if the tenth one is a smash.
    It might also be that encouraging a steady stream of new products is the best way to motivate a hyper-intelligent workforce. Get all these engineer teams dreaming about the kudos, and the cash, that comes with dreaming up the next gmail.
    As another benefit, a steady stream innovation model keeps up the meme that Google is ‘cool’ and not like other companies… and as long as they keep cranking stuff out, investors will keep salivating over the next blockbuster possibility.
    Google as idea factory… the polar opposite of Microsoft as grumpy one-trick monopoly. It’s an old truism that to have great ideas, you have to have lots of ideas. Maybe that’s their thing.

  3. Richard says:

    “it isn’t clear how/where ads would fit into the model”
    Perhaps your monitor resolution isn’t wide enough, I have ~400 pixels of empty space 😉

  4. Google employes “evolving” strategies, not a single well-defined strategy.
    That’s their trick. Think about it.

  5. I largely agree with Franklin Stubbs above. I think the Google mantra is to come up with many ideas, put them out there to see which ones find a market, then innovate these further.
    This, of course, contrasts with many company’s strategies who focus on a few select ideas for launch, but may miss. Of course, you need a minority of projects to hit or you end up wasting resources.

  6. The whole point of Numbler, gspreadsheets, and others is to build something *new* that offers a new collaborative mechanism of working with spreadsheet like data. I am not interested in building an excel competitor, and frankly I don’t think anyone else is either.
    I didn’t build Numbler to beat excel, but because I had run into a bunch of spreadsheet pain working with people all over the globe, in different time zones, etc. I suspect google realizes the same thing.

  7. I think its all about building as many products as you can and then let others build on top of it or you build onto it. A few years ago no one thought text advertising would be so big, and when microsoft built windows no one thought of the internet. Each one of these steps has created billion dollar companies. We don’t know what the next major step is, but google is building as much as they can so they have a better chance of stumbling onto the next billion $ revenue stream.