I would assume most people still use tablets and iPads primarily for entertainment. Their big, high-res displays are great for watching movies, casually browsing the Web and even playing a few leisure games. But there is definitely a growing niche market for people who use (or want to use) tablets for work and productivity.
I, for one, have always viewed tablets as ultra-portable productivity tools. Sure, I use mine for entertainment from time to time I do, after all, have my Transformer Prime loaded with over 50 games.
But at the end of the day, my tablets are for work. I use them for research, emails, managing business expenses, etc. And most importantly as a writer, I use tablets for bare-bones, concentrated writing. As a matter of fact, I'm writing these very words from my iPad. I've been experimenting with this using tablets for work for over two years now – even before Apple released the iPad. Over time, I gradually found a workflow that is frictionless and concise, something that flows well and makes using tablets over any other device worthwhile.
But there's still one major problem: the software is still in its infancy.
There are apps for everything you could imagine – over 200,000 for the iPad alone. There are utility, cloud and productivity apps that I have become accustomed to using regularly, ones that I might have a difficult time finding alternatives to on my computer. But there are also some mobile applications that are still far inferior to their PC counterparts.
The first type that comes to mind (other than Web browsers, of course) is office suites and document editors. Unless you're willing to pay $10 a pop for Apple's iWork for iPad apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc.), you are left with office suites such as Quickoffice, Documents To Go, Drive (formerly Google Docs), etc. Options are just as sparse on Android tablets, having many of the same suites and the official Drive.
Being a writer, I've explored as many options as possible when it comes to office suites and document editors. After trying out Quickoffice on the iPad and relying on Google Docs for about eight months, I was ready to pull my hair out. Between not having an offline mode for editing in Google Docs and Quickoffice being so slow and devoid of editing features, I gave up on office suites for tablets. Eventually, I switched to using plain text editors with a combination of Simplenote and Dropbox syncing.
But that doesn't mean I don't need or want a better document editing experience for mobile devices. And that's exactly what I'm hoping for.
Yesterday evening, Google announced they had acquired Quickoffice for an undisclosed sum of cash. Details were rather scarce on the official announcement blog post, but Google assures they will continue supporting existing users and the interoperability of Quickoffice will be integrated into its Google Apps suite. Alan Warren, Engineering Director a Google, says:
“Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite.
Quickoffice has a strong base of users, and we look forward to supporting them while we work on an even more seamless, intuitive and integrated experience.”
That says very little for Google's actual plans for Quickoffice. But something tells me Google didn't acquire a mobile-only office suite software company so they could add “seamless interoperability it's popular file formats” to their Apps suite. My guess is they have much larger plans.
Like I mentioned above, I've used Quickoffice and Google Docs (prior to the launch of Drive) extensively. Alone, neither are all that great. Drive for word documents is sufficient for most use cases. (With the upcoming update for offline mode, it should be much better.) But creating and editing spreadsheets and presentations via mobile is a rather painstaking process. At least in those areas, Quickoffice's editing software is more intuitive and mobile-friendly.
I'm just hoping the marriage between these two office suite providers can end in a much more robust document editing tool for mobile and, in turn, make tablets a much more viable tool for businesses, college students and everyone in between. This will be especially important as mobile platforms converge with (or become more like) desktop operating systems.
It's a long shot, but what do you think, readers? Does Google's purchase of Quickoffice bode great changes for mobile document editing ahead? Or will this just be another acquisition lost in the sea of Google's purchases and forgotten in time? If you could, how would you change or improve Drive, Quickoffice or your mobile office suite of choice?