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Google Apps Vs. Office 365: Prepare For Battle

With the impending launch of Microsoft's cloud-based version of Office, Google is celebrating customer wins as it girds for war.

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Software giant Microsoft is playing coy. The company on Monday announced that its Office Division will be making an announcement on Tuesday, June 28. What about? Microsoft's event invitation says only that the news has something to do with Office 365, the long-awaited cloud-based version of its Office software.

Microsoft seems determined to pretend that VP Jon Roskill hasn't already eliminated the possibility of surprise. In a Twitter post in early June, Roskill revealed that Office 365 will move from beta testing to general availability on June 28.

Google and the other companies involved in the cloud productivity competition--IBM, Novell, ThinkFree, Zoho--have been preparing for this day, the moment when the battle of the cloud productivity suites is joined in earnest.

Taking a few last shots at its approaching foe before it has to grapple with Office 365 at every sales call, Google on Tuesday revealed that the State of Wyoming has finished moving all 10,000 state government employees to Google Apps for Government.

One day earlier, Google presented a testimonial from Terry Geiger, director of corporate IT at The McClatchy Company, about how his company has "gone Google."

And amid these customer-win stories, Google just released an enhancement to Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office that allows users to open any Office file stored in Google Docs directly from within Microsoft Office.

Google has been spending a lot of time thinking about Microsoft recently. So have its business customers.

McClatchy has decided to ditch Microsoft Exchange and adopt Google Apps for email, collaboration, calendars, chat, and website creation for its 8,400 employees. The company plans to stop upgrading Microsoft Office licenses en masse and to encourage the organic adoption of Google Docs.

Geiger's "Dear Steve" letter, in which he breaks up with Microsoft, derides Microsoft Exchange as complex, expensive, and cumbersome. He says that his company weighed Google Apps against Office 365 and its predecessor, BPOS, and found Microsoft's products wanting. As Geiger sees it, Microsoft fails to understand the "service" part of software-as-a-service.

"Microsoft may still be the personal productivity leader, but Google is the team productivity leader," he wrote. "Google Apps and its collaborative nature are really where we want to go. Google has a better service strategy, better collaborative strategy, and a better cost structure."

Geiger in a phone interview clarified that his company primarily evaluated BPOS and considered Office 365 based on the descriptions provided by Microsoft sales representatives, since 365 was not yet available. He said that while price was a significant factor, it was not a deciding one, adding that the pricing structure of Microsoft's offerings is "very complicated."

Geiger said his company's decision focused on functionality and service. In contrast to Google, which pursues a strategy of rapid iteration, releasing ongoing updates every few days or weeks, he found Microsoft's approach antiquated. "As we talked to Microsoft about it, they still seemed stuck in the old model of a software company with a normal development and release cycle," he said. Microsoft, he suggested, seems to be committed to business-as-usual, developing its traditional product line, with long release cycles, and then pushing updates to the hosted versions of the applications.

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