Google is far from the only rival to Microsoft Office 365, but it is the biggest Web-only option. Here's are the key areas where each vendor shines (for more details, see informationweek.com/ 1305/office365).
>> Existing relationships, Microsoft: Exchange is the email server behind more than 300 million enterprise mailboxes, of which 76% are on-premises, says Radicati Group. Google claims more than 3 million companies use Google Apps for Business.
>> Getting started, Microsoft: The Office 365 beta setup is fast, and the administrative console provides clear, task-oriented options and resources. Sign-up for Google Apps for Business requires a domain-ownership verification that assumes your company has a website and that you work with the site administrator.
>> Familiar interfaces, Microsoft: Office 365's small-business and pricer enterprise subscriptions include Office Web Apps--Web-based clients that run much like Office software, though with fewer bells and whistles. Google Apps blunts the familiarity argument a bit by letting you use Outlook with Gmail servers, but don't expect tight integration with other Microsoft apps.
>> Rich docs and offline editing, Microsoft: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint need a separate subscription, but there's a lot of integration with Office 365. Google says Docs won't displace Office uses that need rich formatting or complex Excel macros, but says such cases are a minority. Until full HTML5 support arrives later this year, Google Apps aren't usable offline.
>> Online collaboration, Google: Google lets you easily create groups, share documents, and do real-time co-editing. Microsoft hasn't matched this.
>> Mobility, Google: Office 365 works with Windows Phone, iPhone/iPad, Symbian, Android, and BlackBerry. Email's not generally a problem on any device. But with other apps, why reserve the "best experience" (device-native) for Windows Phone, when the iPhone and Android dominate?
>> Communications: Microsoft. Google covers instant messaging and presence awareness, but Microsoft's Lync Online creates a pervasive IM, presence, calling, online meetings, and videoconferencing experience that cuts across Office 365 and Microsoft apps like Dynamics CRM. Google doesn't match what's offered in multiparty online meeting and videoconferencing.
>> Reliability, Google. Both vendors promise greater than 99.9% uptime, but Google includes planned maintenance outages in that, Microsoft doesn't. No vendor is immune to outages, but Google has a public status dashboard that shows sizable outages of more than 10 minutes. Microsoft reports service-level data to customers but doesn't post it.
>> Cost, Google. Microsoft is going way off list prices, from what we hear from customers, but Google's starting list price is lower.
>> Hybrid use, Microsoft. Microsoft makes it easier if you want some capabilities on-premises and some in the cloud, with the same administrative interfaces and tools for both.
>> Conclusion: Google has much to offer, especially if you do a lot of online collaboration and don't have much need for rich Excel and Word docs. But given Office 365's business-tuned options, it's Microsoft's game to lose. The test, though, will be in the execution. --Doug Henschen ([email protected])