Microsoft Works To Challenge Google

Microsoft Works To Challenge Google

As more research comes out, it appears Microsoft is working as hard as ever to challenge Google in the cloud. Microsoft’s hybrid cloud solution, Office 365, has been pitted against Google’s cloud service, Google Apps, for the past year since Office 365’s inception. And ever since, Google has proved time and again that it is the authority in the cloud.

Most recently, Gartner Inc., a research firm, was the one to confirm Google’s lead in the cloud competition. This May, the firm released new data showing that between one-third and one-half of businesses moving to the cloud for the first time are choosing to do so with a Google Apps migration. Some may find this report particularly unsettling for Microsoft since the same firm offered a prediction in 2009 that Microsoft would outsell Google by four to one by 2012.

But Microsoft is taking great strides to strengthen its position against Google, the question is how much its efforts are paying off. This spring, Microsoft added a new platform to the Office 365 suite, lowered prices of all cloud platforms, and even created a “Google Compete” team.

Since Microsoft first introduced Office 365 in summer 2011, it has offered multiple platforms for businesses of all kinds. But this spring Microsoft decided to add some diversity to the Office 365 family when it added an Office 365 for Education platform. This new platform rivals the Google Apps for Education suite. Introducing Office 365 for Education did expand Microsoft’s cloud offerings, but Microsoft still has quite a way to go if it wants to cater to as many demographics as Google, which has cloud platforms specifically for business, education, non-profit, and government use.

Around this same time, Microsoft also lowered the prices of its existing platforms by 20%. This price drop made the least costly version of Office 365 $48/user/year. This platform is only for businesses with fewer than 50 people and does not include all of the Office 365 applications, meaning that businesses will need to buy add-ons if they want to use the full apps suite. In comparison, the highest-priced platform of Google Apps is Google Apps for Business, which costs $50/user/year. Although this seems like it costs slightly more than the lowest-priced Office 365 platform, it is not. It is misleading because Google Apps for Business is a standard price for businesses of any size and it includes all of the applications, meaning that it is not necessary to purchase additional apps to run the platform is intended.

Adding a new platform and lowering the prices may help attract some people to Microsoft rather than to Google, but as Microsoft learned these changes still may not be enough. And Microsoft’s latest competitive effort – the “Google Compete” team – further illustrates this point. Microsoft developed this team with the purpose of using it to retain existing Microsoft customers who are entertaining the idea of going Google. The Wall Street Journal told the story of this team at work in the case of a Virginia company, Dominion Enterprises. Dominion Enterprises was a Microsoft customer whose CIO, Joe Fuller, was looking into making the switch to the Google cloud. According to the WSJ, in an effort to save the account, the “Google Compete” team invited Fuller to tour the Microsoft headquarters in Washington. Fuller got perks such as a look at the research lab and developing technologies, but these were not enough to seal the deal. In the end, Fuller still chose to have Google Apps setup, telling the WSJ he based his decision on his belief that Google offered a cooler product than did Microsoft and that switching to Google would save his company money, as it would cost $200,000 a year instead of $2 million.

Fuller’s point of view highlights the fact that there are differences between Google Apps and Office 365 beyond basic points like platform variety and price. First, Google Apps is an entirely cloud-based solution while Office 365 is a hybrid cloud solution. This means that Google Apps runs completely within the web browser and does not require any additional hardware or software while Office 365 does need some additional installation. For Google users, this results in complete universal access. Microsoft users do have mobility, but it may not be complete mobility. Google and Microsoft users will also take advantage of very different programs within each cloud service, as Google relies on programs such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, and Google Sites, while Microsoft runs on programs including Exchange, Lync, Sharepoint, and Office Web Apps.

In sum, although Microsoft has already taken steps to challenge Google in the cloud, it still has its work cut out going forward.

By Sharon Shapiro,

Sharon Shapiro writes for Cloud Sherpas, a leading cloud service provider named the “Google Enterprise 2011 Partner of the Year.” As one of the first Google Enterprise partners, Cloud Sherpas has migrated over one million users across a variety of industries from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps, helping organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. A Google Apps Reseller in Atlanta, GA, Cloud Sherpas has regional offices in locations including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Austin and Sydney, and has more Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists than any other partner in the world.

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