Google Apps Takes on Microsoft Office Live. How Does it Compare?

google-mol.gifThis morning, Google launched their long-rumored Google Apps Premier. It’s a hosted package aimed at businesses, featuring already-existing Google applications tied up in an ad-free bow, for a fee. While a lot will be said about Google’s frontal attack on Microsoft’s stranglehold on the Enterprise, this package of hosted applications is more interesting for the small business who lacks the infrastructure, time or know-how to set up an Exchange or SharePoint server for email, calendar and document collaboration.

Last year, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office Live, a collection of tools for small businesses to get online and organized with minimal hassle. Google Apps is positioned as a solid alternative. However, the two products target the same market in very different ways. It’s not only about whether you prefer Google Docs (formerly Writely) to Microsoft Word for editing your documents. It’s is about linking a distributed workforce together through a common suite of tools, without any additional hardware or support investment. Microsoft has taken baby steps to move the focus off the desktop application, while Google has moved in the same direction with a giant leap.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Taken head-to-head, both packages are targeting smaller groups (5-10 users). You want you and your colleagues to get your business together online quickly and easily without spending anything on hardware. Maybe you have colleagues who are working all over the world, and you need to collaborate with them on documents and tasks/appointments. You live and die by email. You want your communications branded to your company. You want a website but don’t want to hire a consultant to get it all together for you.

So what are we talking about?

Microsoft Office Live Essentials:

  • domain name for use with email and website
  • website creation wizard
  • 2 GB email storage (per user)
  • 1 GB workspace storage
  • 50 email accounts (name@company.com)
  • business contact manager and workspaces for document collaboration (10 users)
  • website add-ins sold as modules (for advertising and other purposes)
  • $19.95 per month ($239.40 per year, assuming 5 active workspace users)

Google Apps Premier:

  • domain name for use with email and website
  • website creation wizard (Page Creator)
  • 10 GB email storage (per user)
  • no limit on document storage
  • unlimited accounts (since pricing is per user, you get what you pay for)
  • document collaboration through Google Docs & Spreadsheets
  • leverage Google API for integration with other applications
  • $50 per user, per year ($250 per year, assuming 5 active users)

Both applications offer mobile versions, and support via telephone. Google also makes a 99% email uptime guarantee, and will eliminate the Gmail ads for Premier accounts.

Are you looking to create a website to attract customers while you collaborate with co-workers and keep your business organized, or are you looking to collaborate with co-workers and keep your business organized while you have a website? It’s not the same question, and your answer may help you determine which package is better suited for you and your business needs. It’s not just about a preference for one company over the other.

Microsoft’s offering may be for you if:

  • You don’t already have a website for your business and want to get something for the world to see that’s quick and easy.
  • You and your co-workers are all using computers running some version of Windows.
  • You and your co-workers already own some version of Microsoft Office and are prepared to continue using Outlook, Word and Excel as the hub of your business communications and processes.
  • Your business is based on customers…attracting them, interacting with them, and keeping them.
  • You won’t always have access to the internet.

Google’s offering may be for you if:

  • You are more interested in having reliable tools for email and collaboration, than you are in having a new point-and-click website.
  • You and your co-workers are using a mix of different platforms, including Mac OS X.
  • You and your co-workers are comfortable using web-based tools for email, word processing or spreadsheets.
  • Your business is not entirely based on attracting and cultivating customers. Maybe you have a handful of accounts, but don’t need to track a lot of customer interactions. Maybe you’re a nonprofit organization, school or faith-based organization. Maybe you own a blog network. The possibilities are endless, and you don’t want to be confined to a standard business model.
  • You are always online.

Google is entering this market in a world already dominated by Microsoft. There may be people who are starting a fresh business with brand new computers that have never been spoiled by Microsoft Office applications, but I doubt those folks are easy to find. The majority of customers for either product have applications and work processes they’re already using. Google will be successful in wooing the small business away from Microsoft if they let customers keep one foot in the familiar, while they gently help them step into new territory.

Microsoft offers a free trial of Office Live, while Google is offering the Premier service free until the end of April. Which, if either, do you think is a better fit? Does Google have a chance of taking on Microsoft outside of the web worker die-hards?

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