30 Days With...Google Docs: Day 19
Here we are, more than half-way through the 30 Days With...Google Docs project, and we have new features to discuss. One of the advantages of hosting an online productivity solution is that Google can easily introduce new features without having to wait for some major release or update.
What is the great new feature? Google rolled out a new pivot tables feature for Google Docs spreadsheets. I will be honest and tell you that I have absolutely no idea what a pivot table is, what it does, or why anyone cares--but apparently for spreadsheet power-users they're all the rage. Microsoft Excel has had pivot tables for quite a while, so that is one more advanced feature Google can check off the list on its quest to rival Microsoft Office.
Since I have no idea what pivot tables are, and little interest in finding out, I won't dwell on the new feature itself. If you are curious, you can check out the Google Docs Blog post announcing the new feature for a detailed explanation including screenshots and video clips. Instead, I just want to point out that one of the benefits of a server-side, cloud-based solution is that it is relatively easy for Google to turn on a new feature like pivot tables and deliver it instantly to all Google Docs users around the world.
With Microsoft Excel, a new feature like pivot tables would most likely be incorporated into a major release, or at least a service pack. Once released, it would have to be downloaded and installed on each individual system. Suffice it to say that it would be a much bigger ordeal to add features to a client-side, locally-installed product.
That said, the constant unpredictability of Google's perpetual beta development model could be an issue for some organizations. IT managers and admins don't like surprises. Companies like to test things out to make sure crucial functions or processes aren't impacted, and prepare for any support issues that might arise as users start using the new feature.
Putting the power in Google's hands means walking in thinking it's just another normal day, sitting down with a cup of coffee, and finding out that Google Docs spreadsheets now has pivot tables.