Some Google acquisitions aren’t surprising in the least. But I was genuinely startled to learn that it’s snapped up Quickoffice, a company that’s been making solid office suites for phones and other mobile devices for a long time.
Not that it’s surprising that Google is interested in office suites: Its Google Apps is as ambitious as browser-based productivity software gets. But the browser-based part has been a defining aspect of Apps. Google spends so much time explaining why office suites should run in the cloud rather than on devices that the notion of it investing in a company that makes office software for Android, iOS and other platforms is a headscratcher at first.
Google’s blog post announcing the acquisition is on the terse side; it talks mostly about bringing Quickoffice’s file-format interoperability to Google Apps. That may mean that the purchase isn’t about the Quickoffice suite so much as it is its underlying technology for moving word-processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations back and forth between Microsoft Office and other programs. (These conversions are hard, and Quickoffice is one of the very few companies that’s ever done a decent job at it.)
If Google wanted Quickoffice mostly for file conversions, I hope that it discovers that it’s also bought some pretty nifty mobile applications and treats them well rather than letting them fester. On phones and tablets, Google Apps in its web-based form is only marginally usable for editing documents, so Quickoffice would complement Apps nicely. Hey, Google: There’d be no shame in conceding that the world still isn’t quite ready for a 100% browser-based approach to productivity suites.
One change reflecting the new ownership is already official. Quickoffice is discontinuing Quickoffice Connect, its recently-introduced attempt to turn its software into a subscription service with built-in cloud syncing. Instead, it’ll focus on making the apps work well with Google Drive–a move that seems both inevitable and logical.