NEW YORK (MainStreet) The question is blunt: why buy something when you can get the equivalent for free?
Therein is the heart of the Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office face-off.
The related question: is Google Docs in fact substantially the same as Microsoft Office?
More schools are pointing students to the egalitarian Google Docs, take note back to school shoppers. Ever more small businesses also are gravitating to Google Docs. The longtime Microsoft workplace productivity hegemony can no longer be taken for granted.
Let's talk price. Microsoft Office Home and Student edition (2013) is $139 at Amazon. A Home and Office edition (2013) is $219. The cheap version excludes Outlook, the pricier one builds it in, along with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Microsoft Office 365, a cloud based version, offers Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook for $5 per month.
As for Google Docs, it's free for home or school users - and includes Docs, Presentation (à la PowerPoint), Spreadsheet (à la Excel), along with forms, drawing tools, and voice and video calling. Gmail and Calendar are a click away.
A business version is priced at $5 per month per user.
Office 365 leveled a playing field that had been advantage Google. That is because Google Docs lets a user access work from anywhere, with any device that can run a browser. That means computer or tablet or phone.
Historically, Office has been bound to a computer. But Office 365 - along with various, recently released Microsoft apps - have dramatically extended Office's accessibility.
Fact: in just about every case, the Microsoft tools are more feature rich and robust than Google's.
That does not mean they are better for the average user.
Dave Skowronski, who develops custom apps that run inside Microsoft software for business clients, elaborated: "Applying Pareto's Principle -- the 80 - 20 rule -- 80% of Office users only use 20% of Office's features. For these people, the free Google Docs is all they need."