Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann calls the improvement to Docs necessary and incremental, but not earth-shattering. "These are all things users are looking for. Do these enhancements make Docs a replacement for Microsoft Office tomorrow? No," she said.
Nonetheless, the upgrades make Docs a more credible alternative to Microsoft Office, which helps Google in its campaign for adoption of the cloud-based Apps in the enterprise, she said.
"Google's model is to get people to move to the cloud. The more attractive Google makes its tools, the easier it is to convince organizations about this," Wettemann said.
Google hopes that Apps, which has been adopted mostly by small companies, continues gaining momentum among large organizations with its Premier edition, which costs US$50 per user per year and has management, security and compliance features that enterprise IT departments require.
Google maintains that Apps, built from the ground up with a cloud computing architecture, is a better, less expensive alternative to traditional communication and collaboration platforms from vendors like Microsoft, IBM and Novell designed to be installed on customers' premises and servers.
However, Microsoft, IBM, Novell and other collaboration vendors are busy retooling their software to take advantage of the cloud computing model.
It's important and significant to see Google keep improving Docs, said Ted Schadler, a Forrester Research analyst. "Google continues to invest in this product. That more than anything else is the story. They're not just going to let this thing sit there. They're going to go for it and continue to use the cloud delivery model as a way to innovate faster," he said.
These continuous improvements will go a long way to help Docs and Apps in the enterprise, even if Docs isn't yet on par feature-wise with Microsoft Office, he said. "I don't see this as a replacement strategy but more as an augmentation strategy," Schadler said. "CIOs and IT executives aren't really looking to get rid of Microsoft Office. They're looking to solve employee problems not well-solved by Office. A big one is collaboration scenarios."
As such, Docs offers enterprises an office suite that makes it easier for employees to collaborate, instead of having to resort to e-mailing back and forth files that are stored in their PCs, he said. "Docs provides a better alternative," Schadler said.
A big concern about enterprises remains moving their data out of their on-premise servers and entrusting it to cloud vendors, such as Google, Wettemann said.