Cloud Computing: 10 Reasons Why Google Won’t Beat Microsoft in Cloud Collaboration
By Clint Boulton on 2010-06-22
The worldwide launch of Microsoft Office 2010 June 15, with the complementary Office Web Apps, rekindled the discussion of whether Microsoft would be a successful challenger to Google in the software market for cloud collaboration applications. Google has racked up more than 30 million Google Apps users, a chunk of which are using it in 2 million businesses, with an even smaller portion paying $50 per user, per year. While Google’s momentum remains strong for Apps, some cracks in the armor have shown themselves of late. Here are 10 reasons why Google won’t beat Microsoft in collaboration.
1# Microsoft Is Big, Getting Bigger
When was the last time you saw a study that said Microsoft’s market share was declining? Microsoft has a $17 billion a year Office business and 500 million seats for that suite. Microsoft SharePoint is a $1 billion a year business. It isn’t going anywhere.
2# Local Still Preferable?
Despite all of the hoopla surrounding cloud computing, that talk is reserved for cost-conscious enterprises. Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder noted that, at least for consumers, "local computing power is plentiful and cheap." There are still plenty of consumers using Office on their store-bought PCs. Google Apps is unlikely to peck away at Microsoft’s user base there.
3# Microsoft Now Lives in the Cloud
For a couple years, Microsoft had no cloud computing offering and Google mopped the floor with the software giant from a PR and marketing standpoint. Microsoft is fully in the cloud now with Office 2010 and a few flavors of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, whose standard version (BPOS-S) costs $10 per user, per month.
4# Bang for the Buck Lies with Microsoft
It’s true that $120 per user, per year for BPOS-S, seems a bit pricey compared to Google’s $50 per user, per year for Google Apps suite. However, some customers would argue that because BPOS-S includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online, they get more bang for their buck. Office 2010 with the lightweight Office Web Apps solidifies Microsoft’s cloud ambitions for the casual cloud collaboration user.
5# Serena Said It and Did It
Serena left Microsoft Exchange for Google Apps in March 2009, but has come back to license BPOS-S, citing what it said was immature products and customer service. We don’t know about that. Google Apps performs well for our casual use. But, when it comes to the enterprise, Serena IT Director Ron Brister tells another tale.
6# Limited Browser
Brister complained about the inability for Google Apps to synch properly between offline and online data. Forrester’s Gownder said that despite programming advances browser-based programs are still more limited than client software today. Google Docs has gotten a nice refresh. But Gownder and others wonder whether it will be enough to satisfy power users. That’s Microsoft’s sweet spot.
7# Customer Service
While Microsoft has rich, years-long relationships with thousands of enterprise customers, Google Apps is putting off some customers. Brister told eWEEK Google’s customer service was non-existent, or worse, arrogant about correcting issues Serena had with Google Apps. And he was paying for 24-7 customer service, which at one point told him to disable offline access. This sort of negative attention will keep other customers away.
Google doesn’t have the cachet Microsoft does in the enterprise. Rumor has it that Microsoft gave Serena BPOS-S free for three years. If this is true, the open source adage about it being "tough to compete with free" can be applied here. Microsoft can afford to give its cloud computing software to customers it wants to win from Google. The question is: will Google forego enterprise sales to do the same?
9# Google Billboards?!
Microsoft Office sells itself by way of word of mouth and entrenched contract renewals. Google has been knocked in the past for failing to advertise Google Apps and other Google Web services. Google Apps went two-plus years without advertising until Google launched its Going Google ad campaign. Going Google isn’t on TV, where ads matter. It’s on highway, train and subway billboards! When was the last time you went on the Web to look for something advertised on a billboard?
10# Good Enough
People, from consumers to enterprises, have a longstanding relationship with Office. As Gownder notes: "Consumers have years’ worth of digital assets designed in, and still most suited to, Office." Unfortunately, while there is a segment of companies pining for the newfangled approach of the cloud, Microsoft now has the cloud computing assets to move employees from its local Microsoft Office and SharePoint suites to Web-based versions. So customers who once would have left Microsoft for Google’s cloud will likely stick with Microsoft. Save for business customers and individuals that flocked to Google because they detested the legacy Office and SharePoint hegemonies, the software giant hasn’t given them enough reasons to switch.