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Friday, November 3, 2006

Gmail Offers to Open XLS in Spreadsheets

Caleb sent in a screenshot showing how Gmail suggests to open attached XLS (Microsoft Excel) files in Google Spreadsheets. I’m not sure if everyone can see this feature yet.

I guess we can expect much more of this cross-integration to be rolled out in the future... every little step can build Google’s strength in terms of lock-in*. E.g. when you are hooked on Gmail, using Google Spreadsheets suddenly becomes much more convenient, even when you might not prefer it over a competitor’s spreadsheets app; the same can work for each of their products, like web search, Google News, Google Talk and so on. Personally as user I don’t care right now ’cause I like how the usability of Google’s “office suite” is coming along (and everything that weakens Microsoft seems to also weaken a near-monopoly), but I wonder if one day Google will face monopoly charges, pressuring them to always offer different vendors – like they already do for maps, as the screenshot below shows.

*Wikipedia defines vendor lock-in as “a situation in which a customer is so dependent on a vendor for products and services that he or she cannot move to another vendor without substantial switching costs, real and/or perceived.” Switching costs, on the other hand, are detailed by another Wikipedia article: “Examples of switching costs include the effort needed to inform friends and relatives about a new telephone number after an operator switch, costs related to learning how to use the interface of a new mobile phone from a different brand and costs in terms of time lost due to the paperwork necessary when switching to a new electricity provider.” According to this article, switching costs include “exit fees, search costs, learning costs, cognitive effort, emotional costs, equipment costs, installation and start-up costs, financial risk, psychological risk, and social risk.”


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