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Microsoft Plans To Beat Google In The Cloud

It will keep packaging a mix of apps to meet companies collaboration demands.

Microsoft's Office strategy focuses on consistency: providing the same document view across on-premises, Internet-based, and mobile platforms. And while Google Docs puts a singular, simple focus on real-time online document sharing, Microsoft offers a portfolio of products--feature rich but also complicated--for different kinds of collaboration.

Not surprisingly, Kurt DelBene, senior VP of Microsoft's Office group, doesn't give an inch on competing in pure cloud deployments, touting Office's ubiquity and familiarity and the fact that it will offer PC- and cloud-based apps. Today, its Business Productivity Online Standard (BPOS) Suite, which includes Exchange and SharePoint, is available via the cloud. But the current version is based on the 2007 versions of the software, starts at $120 per user per year, and doesn't include Web or on-premises versions of Microsoft Office. Microsoft hasn't officially announced a release date for the 2010 version of BPOS (to which the new Web apps are tied) but is aiming at the end of the year.

While some companies will go all-online and some stay on-premises, DelBene says, "the real challenge will be addressing customers in the in-between states, so we're giving them the flexibility to figure out which divisions they want to bring into the cloud and at what pace."

In the on-premises realm, Microsoft has a lot riding on its mega-release in May of Office 2010, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and new versions of its SharePoint collaboration platform and Exchange e-mail.

Microsoft is also releasing Office Communications Server 2010, advancing its VoIP ambitions via Office and SharePoint. A new Social Connector feature adds personal profiles and presence awareness that work across Office, SharePoint, and Communications Server. Says DelBene: "We've taken the view that you should be able to move from one modality of communicating to another and that the notion of presence is central to the collaboration experience."

DelBene concedes most people want better collaboration, but he doesn't buy that Google's less-is-more approach--delivering one browser-based app suite that has only the most-used features--will change the game.

Microsoft is sticking with packaging multiple apps for businesses such as Office, SharePoint, and Communications Server, whether in the cloud or on premises. "We have agreements in place," DelBene notes, "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."

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