Jonathan Rochelle, product manager at Google Docs & Spreadsheets, gave a presentation about Google's online office suite at FOWA 07, in February.
The spreadsheet product came from 2Web Technologies/XL2Web, while the other half is the result of acquiring Upstartle/Writely. In October 2006, the two products merged and in February Google Docs & Spreadsheets was already available in 14 languages. Mr. Rochelle mentioned that they opted for this boring name to make the features transparent to the user even before using the application.
The product's main goals were:
- to have a familiar interface
- to be accessible from anywhere
- to add real-time collaboration
- to create communities around documents
- to let you publish documents on your site
Google Docs only took off after they added the new interface which was easier to use. They also had to choose between "rich conflict resolution or simple 'trust me' collaboration. Professional users need rich controls but most people didn't complain about the 'trust me' version." One of the most important thing they focused on was the performance: they even removed unused features to improve the speed (for example, a way to pan the spreadsheet like a map).
Even if Google plans to add more advanced features, some of them could be implemented by third-parties using an API.
The full presentation is available as an MP3 (38 MB) or using Gmail's MP3 player: