IT behemoths, Microsoft and Google, have for years been embroiled in battles over who would control the move by different industries to the Cloud.
Since at least 2007, Australian universities and education authorities eager to outsource their email have turned to either provider in lieu of limited competition from the market. For the next battle, however, the stakes are higher. Both Google and Microsoft are betting all of their chips on a sector that is likely to prove much more lucrative than any before it: Enterprise.
There is little doubt Google already has the stronger foothold; the company has offered an enterprise-grade version of its Apps portfolio for four years, and claims sign-up rates in excess of 3000 businesses per day. The caveat is that most of those businesses appear to be small to medium in size, looking to reduce small volume licensing costs, but the momentum is undeniable nonetheless.
On the other hand, although Microsoft looks to have fallen behind in recent years, its Cloud suite is growing stronger with each successive product release. Its hosted Exchange solution is already highly competitive, for example, but the productivity aspect has been an obvious gap in its wider portfolio.
The software giant intends to change all that when it takes Office 365 out of beta and into the real world. When exactly that will happen remains a mystery -- Microsoft is reticent to name an exact launch date and even those close to the company's Cloud services aren't sure when it will be confident enough to launch it to a wider customer base.
Regardless, Microsoft hopes the portfolio -- a mix of Office Web Apps and hosted instances of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync unified communications -- will steal thunder from arch-enemy, Google.
Even without an official launch, however, Microsoft has begun to take swipes at Google's offering, claiming the limited suite of Google's products means the entire portfolio isn't ready for the enterprise. The options from the search giant -- Sites, internal YouTube, Gmail, chat, video conferencing and a maturing portfolio of Docs applications -- are, according to Microsoft, little to worry about.
That is, of course, just what a competitor would say.
In reality, the portfolios are pitched at slightly different markets. Though scaled to larger businesses, the enterprise edition of Google Apps retains much of the product offering made specifically for individuals, small businesses and the education market. SharePoint, at the very least, is considered a more robust option than any document repository currently on Google's platform.
But the lack of a consolidated and readymade option so far from Redmond is a problem that even Microsoft observer and often evangelist, Paul Thurrott, recently recognised.
"We're in this age of transition," he writes. "And during this time, Microsoft is vulnerable, because users may move on to other hosted office productivity offerings as they make their own transitions to the cloud."
Stay tuned for part 2 - the Google Apps experience
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This story, "Google Apps vs Microsoft BPOS, Office 365 - Part 1" was originally published by CIO Australia.