To start out with, I should say I love bacon. And, I love Google and all they have done to create great web apps that just work and look good. Google docs, Google talk, GMail, Picasa, Google Earth. You could pretty much go down the list and find that just about everything Google makes was well thought out and needed to be brought to the public. They deliver. But, Google docs now has some pretty stiff competition.
Enter buzzword. Created by a company called Virtual Ubiquity, buzzword is an online word processor that looks and feels more like a word processor than a webpage. It’s created with Flex, so the graphics and interface have that richness that we know and love from flash based web apps. Collaboration is a feature that was nicely implemented – users can upload an avatar that displays next to their name. It shows who is currently editing it, in real-time. Of course it auto-saves but it goes well beyond that. It has a sort of version history built in so you can roll back to a point if needed. The toolbar is organized with only one row, and the tools sections are organized into groups that expand to focus on the tools needed. That reduces clutter and is done in a way that you still can find the tools you need easily. Images placed in the text can be resized and positioned however you want. The text will flow around them very smoothly. I was impressed at how easily image placement was.
Their target will be people who need documents online, accessible from anywhere. People like students, who go from class to class and don’t want to bring a laptop everywhere because it could get stolen or broken. Or collaborators who want to easily share documents between others in a group and allow reviewing or authoring by multiple people.
Buzzword is still in “preview” which means it’s beta. They’re still working out the bugs. So far, it is proving to be a very impressive online app. Google has the advantage of being more and more of a one-stop-shop for e-mail, documents, web search, etc. but I see a strong advantage to Virtual Ubiquity in the usability and style aspects of online document creation that will get them some strong footing in the market.