The Great Battle: Microsoft 360 against Google Apps
By:NewsyStocks   Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:38 PM

Microsoft has officially launched Office 365, the new cloud-based subscription productivity suite from the software giant. Office 365 combines Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online into a single cloud-based package that is scalable from small businesses to large enterprises, with a per-user license cost depending upon the volume of users. The package provides SharePoint for an intranet and shared documents; and Lync for IM, online meetings, and audio and video calls.  The new service is available immediately in 40 countries.

On the other hand, Google Apps is a service from Google providing independently customizable versions of several Google products under a custom domain name. It features several Web applications with similar functionality to traditional office suites, including: Gmail, Google Groups, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and Sites.

There seem to be a number of head-to-head comparisons between this suite and its rival Google Apps, but those stand valuable only to individuals or companies who are considering a choice between the two. However, for organizations that do not intend to abandon Microsoft Office it boils down to which of the company's applications offer better value.

Google and the other companies involved in the cloud productivity competition--IBM, Novell, ThinkFree, Zoho--have been preparing for this day, when they will need to show appeal to attract a giant share of the market.

Although Google Apps has been around for four years, most analysts believe Microsoft's existing fan base will make Office 365 more popular. Last year, Office made a $10.2 billion profit for Microsoft, while Google claims 18 million users pay to use Google Apps, but would not disclose profitability.

Before we can actually debate on who rules the roost, one thing must be stated flatly: Office 365 and Google Apps are very different products. Office 365 is meant to be used with a desktop installed version of Office (preferably Office 2010), whereas Google Apps is 100 percent in the browser. In this case, we're talking apples and oranges. However, there are certainly some differentiators that will help make a choice, which an organization will need to live with for several years to come.

Google Apps for Business costs either $5 a month per user or $50 a year per user. It's free for "accredited not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entities with <3,000 users, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities." Non-profits with over 3,000 employees are eligible for a discounted version of Apps for Business. If you need fewer than 10 users you can use Google Apps for free. You can also use Google Docs, without Google Apps, for free.

Pricing for Office 365 starts at $6 per user per month for small organizations with fewer than 25 employees. For organizations with more than 25 employees, pricing ranges from $10-27 per user per month, but there's also kiosk pricing at $4 or $10 a month. There are also discounts for education. Microsoft's pricing in general is more complex than that for Google Apps.

Google Apps has just 3 million users, but Microsoft boast of ten times as many for Office web apps. Also, there are millions who already use Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS), which will upgrade to Office 365. Although it will be a hard task for Google to catch up, businesses at the moment want whatever is efficient and inexpensive. A vast migration does not seem impossible.

However, Microsoft does have a fairly better chance of winning this cloud battle by attracting more users than Google by convincing many existing Microsoft customers to adopt Office 365. Office Apps is definitely a better option for individuals and organization seeking an elaborate, formal and polished face on communications. However, for organizations that do most of their work online, Google Apps seems like a reasonable choice.