Eric Schmidt and John Battelle at Web2Expo
(Photo courtesy of Pinar Ozger)

During Tuesday's keynotes at the Web 2.0 Expo last week, John Battelle interviewed Google's Eric Schmidt, and asked a number of really great questions, some of which had to do with Google's online office productivity applications. If you have some time, I would highly recommend watching the video of the interview.

When Google Spreadsheets launched almost a year ago, there was lots of chatter on the web about how Google was building a web-based Office-killer. My belief then was that, for many users, Google's tools would actually become complementary to Microsoft Office rather than replacements. As a student, I was personally using both, and while Office is undoubtedly more mature and feature-rich (with many features that I actually used regularly), the realtime collaboration features in Google's suite were very valuable to me when working on group project reports and papers.

Anyway, now that Google has announced its plans to introduce a Powerpoint-like presentation application, Battelle brought up the question again - is Google's suite really a competitor to Microsoft Office? Here's what Schmidt had to say:

We don't think so, and the reason is that it doesn't have all the functionality, nor is it intended to have all the functionality, of products like Microsoft Office. This is really a different way of managing information. It's casual, it's sharing, it seems to be a better fit to how people use the web, and we think it's an example of one of the applications categories on the Web 2.0 framework that will be very, very successful. [...] For people who are using products that are on the web, who need presentation access, and the sharing (which is really the driving thing), they're going to use this. Or something like this.

I think that's actually quite a rational and down-to-earth response. Matthew Glotzbach (Head of Products - Google Enterprise) also had a similar viewpoint when asked whether Google's suite is meant to replace Office, during a discussion on Wednesday morning with Dan Farber, ZDNet's editor-in-chief. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, on the other hand, calls Schmidt's response "complete spin."

What do you think? :)