We weigh reality against rhetoric as Microsoft looks to dissuade customers from experimenting with, let alone adopting, Google Apps.
Both editions include access to a domain-specific version of Gmail (e.g.: your_email_address@your_domain.com); group calendaring; read, write, and edit access to word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents; and an ability called "Sites" for setting up Web sites that can make it easier for workgroups to aggregate and subsequently find everything that's associated with a particular collaborative effort. (Microsoft's SharePoint server also does this).
With the new version of Google Apps, document collaboration happens in real time. If you're sharing a document with someone else, they can not only see what you're typing in real time, they get an indication of where your cursor is positioned in the document (and you can see theirs). IM-style chat is both available and integrated into documents. Video and voice communications are available to Google Apps users, but not contextually integrated the way they're found in Microsoft Office when Microsoft's Office Communications Server is in place.
There are of course more details, but those are the tops of the waves.
Going with Microsoft in the cloud is a bit more complicated. (Confusing? You be the judge.)
With Microsoft, there aren't two versions of the same thing, one paid, one not. For consumers and really small businesses willing to turn to ad-supported services like Hotmail for e-mail and SkyDrive for storage, Microsoft will be adding ad-supported Web applications that can work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. As of the time this was written, the technical preview (a "beta" version) of the Web Apps was available, but the Web-based Excel was the only fully functional application. PowerPoint was available, but only for viewing presentations, and Word was deactivated.
For your company to use the browser-based version of Microsoft Office, you must pay for a SharePoint 2010 server. There are three primary ways of doing this. The first is to self-host SharePoint 2010 on premises. In this case, you're the one running the hardware and the software and taking care of delivery of all of SharePoint services to your users.
The second is for someone else to host your SharePoint 2010 server. There are many third-party hosting services that would be happy to do this for you, and one of them is Microsoft. One way Microsoft can host your SharePoint server is as a part of a suite servers that it hosts for you, called the Business Productivity Online Suite, Dedicated Edition. BPOS-D includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communications Server.
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