One of the big reasons Google won the search engine “race” is that it offered a huge index of web sites in a fast amount of time and through a simple interface.
Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo, Ask and so many other search engines failed to grasp these important concepts. When they did, Google had already taken the lead by so much, there was really nothing they could do about it.
The world of online document collaboration and storage, however, is so much different. There is no clear leader.
The old school battle of Microsoft Word and Corel Wordperfect was so simple. Two fairly similar word processors and one had more market share and dominated for a long time, due to a variety of reasons. But specification to specification both were quite similar.
However, between Zoho, Web Office, Hyper Office, Office Live, Google Docs, Box.net and a few others I’m probably leaving out, there are so many different features, interfaces and ways to share documents online.
I’d like to highlight Microsoft Office Live and Google Docs. Ironically, how the two fierce competitors are producing their respective offerings is quite different.
Google Docs is fairly simple and straight forward and has a minimal feature set – in line with its strategy of simple tools with minimal features, bells and whistles. There are exceptions, like Google Voice, which it obtained through the acquisition of Grand Central.
What I like most about Google Docs is that to collect information online, Google has an easy way to create forms which you can embed on your web site. Other than that Google’s platform is simple to use. If you want to create documents and share them with others, you can do this with Google Docs.
On the other hand, Microsoft Office Live does not let you create documents online, you have to create them offline in Microsoft Office, but it does let you save documents online and share them with others. Instead of just sharing individual documents, Office Live lets you share an entire work space comprised of various types of documents. Another aspect of Office Live is that you can upload multiple documents and use Office Live as a backup service.
These are just two of many services available for your use and you can see that there is not one right solution. Comparing Box.net to Hyper Office and Zoho to Web Office is an entirely different set of comparisons as well.
The key is to test the products, see what works best for you and always ensure that you can export and import your data so that you are not locked into one service.