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Dave Methvin
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Google, Microsoft Fight For Your Domain

Google has built a lot of services, plus several from acquisitions over the years. Last week, the company made most of those services available as part of Google Apps. Microsoft has an answer for that.

Google has built a lot of services, plus several from acquisitions over the years. Last week, the company made most of those services available as part of Google Apps. Microsoft has an answer for that.The key part of this announcement is that a Google Apps email with the company domain name can be registered with a service like YouTube, AdWords, or Blogger. Google Apps administrators have the ability to control which services are brought under their company's name, and which groups inside the organization have access to that service. Blogging could be made available to all employees, for example, or limited only to an official blog maintained by the company's marketing department.

Google's evolution towards a single sign-on for their universe of services is an after-the-fact affair. They created or acquired dozens of different services, many of which had their own separate registration processes where users could use an arbitrary email address. The Great Merge taking place here fixes the problem, although there can be some cumbersome transition issues on specific services like Blogger or Picasa if a user chose the same email address on an existing account.

Microsoft has had its own single sign-on, now known as Windows Live ID but previously known as Passport, for about a decade. Despite attempts early on to get other companies interested in their service, today it is used almost solely by Microsoft. The new Office 365 will make use of Windows Live ID, and will also allow login through a domain-named account.

Even though the Google and Microsoft sign-on infrastructures are now similar, their offerings are not. Microsoft has the the benefit of widespread use of Office. It's hard to imagine any large company that currently uses Office being able to go cold-turkey on Office documents and switching to Google Docs. Too much fidelity is currently lost in the translation. Google, on the other hand, has a mature offerings with Webmaster Tools, AdWords, and AdSense. Microsoft's ad network can't compare.

Since both companies have strengths in their offerings, it's very likely that most businesses will want to use services from both companies. But which will Microsoft or Google (if either) get the honor of "owning" the domain, and thus have the upper hand in getting companies to use more of its services? My guess is that a business will make that decision based on which services they perceive as most critical to their work. With that in mind, Office 365 may give Microsoft a fighting chance.

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