War of the cloud services: iCloud vs. Google, Do.com vs. Microsoft Sharepoint

Salesforce takes on Microsoft Project and SharePoint with Do.com. Apple introduces new services to take on Google. Forget browsers and operating systems. The next war will be in software as a service.

In the beginning, it was Macintosh vs. Windows. Then it was Windows against OS/2 against the Mac. Followed by Netscape Navigator head-to-head against Internet Explorer.

The history of technology is replete with these standoffs, as companies and their developers square off against each other to try to capture the most customers, and therefore the most revenue.

[ Free download: Selecting the right cloud: A step-by-step guide ]

Today, the competition at the center of the attention is the mobile device sector. Which phone is better, the iPhone or the Android devices? Some would suggest that the real point of contention is at the operating system level with iOS vs. Android.

There is a good set of arguments for this, but recent innovations suggest that the real differential between these two families of devices isn't their operating systems, but the services each device provides.

Here's how contenders for software as a service in collaboration, general business, messaging and multimedia stack up.

Collaboration as a service: Salesforce's Do.com worth a look

Cloud-based collaboration is a sector that, depending on how you look at it, has been around a while.

After all, enterprise collaboration and sharing services such as SharePoint and Alfresco are easily hosted on the cloud, since they're web-based already. SharePoint can easily be run on Azure-based services, and Alfresco is easily installed on Amazon Web Service Linux-based machines.

When it comes to collaboration as a service, however, things get more scarce.

One new entrant to this field will most definitely be Salesforce's Do. Based on the project management and collaboration service Manymoon, which Salesforce acquired early in 2011, Do taps into social tools to create an online collaborative environment that's very easy to use.

Do is still in private beta, but an early look at the tool reveals a simple interface that can work well with a variety of organizations, particularly at the team/department level (see Figure 1).

Some concerns are apparent for wider enterprise adoption. This is a task manager, with document sharing carried by files (or Google Doc URLs) attached to each task. Tasks are easy to set up, but there seems to be no way to save tasks within any sort of workflow. This may be made up by the fact that each Do user's interface is easily customized, so you can essentially build your own way of keeping track of projects and pending tasks.

Do may be the one tool that can breach the huge learning curve that plagues many SharePoint clients; it's intuitive and easy to learn, and its connectivity to Google's cloud services makes document storage easy.

Figure 1: The Do interface is clean and fairly customizable
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