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The Fight for Cloud Productivity
Over the last few years the move to cloud computing has gathered pace as the availability of low-cost bandwidth increases, the price of server space reduces and various online service providers and tech giants have begun fighting for our data. While cloud storage was already available, it all started in earnest back in 2005 when Google launched Gmail, which proved that web based email could be quite flexible, and this was soon followed by Google Docs and the Google Apps online office collaboration suite.
Whil other companies have seen the attraction of the online collaboration market and offered their own services, Google’s big rival in cloud computing right now is Microsoft.
The masters of office computing, Microsoft have been redeveloping their online services over the past few years, offering SkyDrive cloud storage for standard users and Windows Phone 7 owners and building Microsoft Office Web Apps into a quality alternative to Google Docs.
More recently, however, Microsoft has launched Office 365, a brand new online office suite that is designed not just for individuals but for office employees and remote collaborators. For many users of Microsoft’s products, the launch might have gone unnoticed, as in the majority of cases Office 365 isn’t going to make any changes to the way most office-based users work.
Typically the suite is being targeted at enterprise users who have already expressed an interest in moving to cloud computing, a sector which Google has been targeting for some time, something which they demonstrated in a recent blog post which attempts to dismiss Office 365 but really only manages to prove that Google is running scared.
Screenshot provided by author.
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“Google Said WHAT?!"
To herald the launch of Office 365, Google Apps Product Manager Shan Sinha decided to publish “365 reasons to consider Google Apps", an oddly short summary of how Google Apps for Business is different to Microsoft Office/Office 365 which omitted several key points and attempted to gloss over the folks at Redmond stealing some of Google’s thunder.
So Sinha made some soundbitey statements that wouldn’t have been out of place on a press release summary rather than a technical blog, stuff like:
"Office 365 is for individuals. Apps is for teams."
Oh really? Try telling that to the thousands of netbook owning road warriors who use Google Documents and Gmail to do their daily work. Both systems are suitable for solo or group work, with Office 365 particularly useful within the very corporate environs that Google has had its eye on for some time now.
"Office 365 is built for Microsoft. Apps is built for choice."
What does that even mean? It seems to be suggesting that if you don’t use Microsoft then the only other choice is Google Apps, which simply isn’t true; for a start, there is Zoho, which in many ways is arguably better than Google or Microsoft's offerings. These statements (and there are many more) are so trite you would think Sinha was angling for a job away from Google...
More to the point, however, Google doesn't even have 365 reasons! The article “365 reasons to consider Google Apps" features FOUR badly conceived reasons for consumers to choose Google Apps at the enterprise level. But it gets better – when it was pointed out that the article fell way short of its supposed purpose, Sinha suggested readers could contribute their own reasons to up the total to 365!
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What Switching from Microsoft Office to Google Docs Means to Businesses
Around the world businesses of all sizes are focusing IT spending on the most cost-efficient technology and services, often as a result of slashed budgets. This usually means investing over a two to five year cycle on servers and desktops and choosing the most suitable environment for data management and productivity.
The businesses that Google have been targeting with their enterprise tools are those with a need for collaboration across different sites. This makes perfect sense, as Google has promoted the idea of wireless, cloud based collaboration for some years now. But there is a downside to all of this, an at-times ambitious data migration project that can be easily avoided if the business in question opts for Office 365.
Naturally, Microsoft knows this, and the Office 365 system is robust enough that they are rightly confident that they will be seeing in a new age of corporate cloud-based collaboration.
The problem is, Google also know this. Could it be that their efforts to date have been to little? Google have put a strong case forward to be a major player in the enterprise office market but with Microsoft finally waking up to the power of the cloud and having ready-made infrastructures in the shape of Windows-based networks just waitig for Office 365 to be implemented, Google's ambitions in this area could be dealt a cruel blow.
Might we one day recall Google Apps as we now remember previous Microsoft competitors such as Novell and Lotus?
Image credit: Microsoft News Center, http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/cloud/imageGallery.aspx
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Are Google Running Scared? Or Have They Misunderstood Office 365?
Despite the (frankly inept) impression given by Shan Sinha, Google simply cannot have misunderstood Microsoft’s Office 365, otherwise this would represent a piece of commercial arrogance (“We ARE the cloud") on an industrial scale.
For instance, Google’s dismissal of Office 365 that “Office 365 is about the desktop. Apps is about the web," gives the impression that an Office 365 user will be tied to desktop apps, exactly like a Microsoft Office 2010 user. Clearly this is bunkum, inaccurate and confusing at best, an attempt to be intentionally misleading at worst. Office 365, like Microsoft Web Apps for standard users, can be used in any browser, just like Google Apps for Business and Google Docs can be.
The tone of Sinha’s shot across the bow (which was so off target it appears to have put a dent in Office 97 rather than Office 365) is one of desperation, a selection of concepts listed without taking into accout the actual situation, or perhaps just obfuscate it.
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Sinha, Shan. "365 reasons to consider Google Apps", http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2011/06/365-reasons-to-consider-google-apps.html