Meanwhile, many enterprises view the fundamentals of e-mail and enterprise collaboration as broken. DelBene concedes most organizations want a better collaboration experience. But he doesn't buy the argument that Google's less-is-more approach -- delivering the 20% of functionality most workers actually use -- will change the game.
"Google took an approach that is confusing and isn't focused on the key [user] scenarios," DelBene said. "One of the biggest use cases for Web applications, regardless of whose product you are talking about, is viewing documents. If you receive an attachment and you're not at your PC, you'll still want a full-fidelity rendering of that document. That's a place where we're highly differentiated from anybody else."
Collaborative co-authoring is another differentiator for Microsoft, DelBene said, noting that participants in an online editing session can use either the cloud-based software or an on-premise client. He also raised the specter of regulatory compliance. "Customers trust Microsoft to have built in the features required to manage the information and secure the information as they know they were required to do on premises," he said.
It's hard to gauge how competitive Microsoft's online offerings will be given that the company has yet to detail pricing and packaging options. There's little doubt that enterprise customers contemplating hybrid deployments will look for favorable licensing combinations.
"Packaging has worked for us in the past, and it helps that we already have business relationships with most of these customers," DelBene said. "We have agreements in place, and when they're deciding whether to move entirely into the cloud or into a mixed environment, it's a natural and easy discussion for us to have with customers," he added.