Google Strikes Back at Microsoft Fluid with Smart Canvas
By Jim Lundy
This week at Google I/O, Google announced the ability to embed objects from other Google Workspace apps right into Google Docs. This will make Google Docs much more of a digital work hub than ever before and puts it closer to the original vision of the virtual document that was conceived at Xerox Parc many years ago. In this blog, we analyze how it will compete against Microsoft Fluid.
What Is Smart Canvas?
Smart Canvas is a new way to weave relevant information into a Google Doc and to do it seamlessly. Examples include tasks, table templates, and people and meeting info—all of the relevant things that make people want to collaborate. Smart Canvas brings these elements together in a more seamless fashion through its use of what it calls interactive building blocks. These include components such as smart chips, templates, and checklists.
Smart Canvas also allows Google to get rid of some of its traditional page formatting in Google Docs. However, we’d note that many documents will still need page level formatting due to things like legal contracts.
Analysis: Google Smart Canvas Will Counter Microsoft Fluid
While Google will deny it, there is an eerie similarity between Smart Canvas and Microsoft Fluid—which attempted to challenge Google and its open approach to collaboration with Google Docs with snippets that could be inserted into a Microsoft Word Doc. Smart Canvas essentially does the same thing.
Back to the Future: Fulfilling the Dream of Virtual Documents
If we go all the way back to Xerox Parc (I used to work at Xerox many moons ago), there was a concept of a virtual document that could leverage many different capabilities, not just text editing and tables. Both Microsoft Fluid and Google’s Smart Canvas are steps in that direction.
Documents as Work Hubs
Both Google and Microsoft are making documents more inclusive and more of a digital work hub—which is an area Aragon has been writing about. The idea of being able to do more with one application is something we agree with. Both Fluid and Canvas are still in the process of being rolled out, so we will have to see how users react to and take advantage of both of these approaches. It will definitely make the creative phase of document creation better and faster.
Virtual documents—which means that users can do more of what they want to do from a creative perspective—is what Google’s Smart Canvas and Microsoft Fluid are enabling. This is good for users and when people understand the possibilities, better innovation can be enabled and so can increased productivity (due to less app switching). We will be monitoring the rollout of both offerings so stay tuned. Developing….