Google has dropped support for the export of spreadsheets, documents and other files in old-style Microsoft Office formats.
From 1 October, according to a notice placed on the company's website, users of all editions of Google Apps – including Business, Education, and Government – will be unable to download documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in old Microsoft Office formats with file extensions such as .doc, .xls and .ppt.
The move will affect users running versions of Microsoft Office older than just five years on their local PCs.
In a curt announcement on its "update feed", the company announced: "The following features are intended for release to these domains on October 1st: Docs: Users no longer have the ability to export Google Docs format files in Office 1997-2003 format (.doc, .xls, .ppt)."
The sudden decision may give many organisations pause for thought over the control that cloud providers can exert over their data and its migration when it is held in the cloud. While upgrades can happen in users' own time when the application and data are run and stored locally (albeit, sometimes, under pressure from vendors), in the cloud, users have to be able to trust the provider.
Many organisations consulted by Computing journalists say that they have seriously considered Google Apps as an alternative to Microsoft Office, but have been put off by its per-user costs and a lack of a locally installed option.
The move will disproportionately affect users that have migrated to Google Apps, but who have not upgraded their versions of Microsoft Office precisely because they have migrated to the web.
One workaround might involve downloading and running an open source Office suite, such as OpenOffice or Libre Office, which maintain support for a wide range of old Office and other formats – as well as the latest file XML-based file extensions, such as the OpenDocument Format.