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Microsoft Fires Salvo Against Google Apps

Microsoft has sent out an email from a corporate spokesman listing the top ten concerns companies should have before switching to Google Apps (top ten? They trying to make Digg? It didn’t work). Mary Jo Foley was the first to print the list. Here is the list, along with my editorial comments:

“1. Google touts having enterprise level customers but how many “USERS” of their applications truly exist within the enterprise?

Not even sure what this question is asking. Are they saying that Google has customers, but those customers don’t use the product? Are they saying that Google’s customers are customers for publicity reasons, but that they don’t actually deploy Apps? Are they saying that companies sign up for Apps, but only use it for the portion of their employees that they deem not important enough to get copies of Office?

That last one is possible, and yesterday’s CapGemini announcement seemed to indicate as such. Microsoft could win a major battle on that point alone, that important people use Microsoft Office, while low-level clerks and lackeys are forced to use the inferior Google Apps. It makes Google Apps look like a punishment.

“2. Google has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a “known only to Google” schedule – this flies in the face of what enterprises want and need in their technology partners – what is Google doing that indicates they are in lock step with customer needs?

Uh, Microsoft has a recent history of shipping late. Still, it’s a good point, but release schedules are more important if you are buying upgrades, not if you are paying for subscriptions. In a subscription market, you want to know when new features are coming, but you don’t pay more for them, so planning ahead isn’t as important.

“3. Google touts the low cost of their apps –not only price but the absence of need for hardware, storage or maintenance for Google Apps. BUT if GAPE is indeed a complement to MSFT Office, the costs actually become greater for a company as they now have two IT systems to run and manage and maintain. Doesn’t this result in increased complexity and increased costs?

This point is excellent and needs some explanation. Microsoft is saying that if you are running Office for some employees and Google Apps as a complement for other employees, then you are now running two seperate application platforms for the same purpose, and your cost saving may evaporate in the IT costs for running two system.

In addition, it’s worth pointing out again that the “complementary” system is a loser, admitting that Google Apps is not even trying to be the best. It also creates an upper and lower class of employees, and can cause a lot of problems as workers get pissed off at being stuck in the lower class.

“4. Google’s primary focus is on ad funded search. Their enterprise focus and now apps exist on the very fringe and in combination with other fringe services only account for 1% of the company’s revenue. What happens if Google executes poorly? Do they shut down given it will them in a minimal and short term way? Should customers trust that this won’t happen?

Good point. Google could just up and quit, realizing that Apps is going nowhere years from now. If they do, what happens to years of subscription fees, wasted away on software you don’t own? Companies could still now be running Office 95 or Office 97 because software is mostly forever, something that would not be possible with Google Apps.

“5. Google’s apps only work if an enterprise has no power users, employees are always online, enterprises haven’t built custom Office apps – doesn’t this equal a very small % of global information workers today? –On a feature comparison basis, it’s not surprising that Microsoft has a huge lead.

Again, Google Apps is being positioned as the office suite for people who don’t need power or features. Its a crappy marketing position, but its true, and both Google and Microsoft are using that to sell their side of the argument. Microsoft argues Apps is not good for power users, offline user, those who use the big features; while Google argues that Apps is good for those that only need occasional document tasks.

They’re both right. I’d like to argue that companies didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for Office because their employees used it for simple tasks, that they only bought it so their employees could use advanced features and be more productive, but that hasn’t always been the case. How many of you have an expensive desktop computer, Windows, Office, and play a lot of solitaire, write up a few memos, and add some numbers to a spreadsheet? More than Microsoft would like to admit.

“6. Google apps don’t have essential document creation features like support for headers, footers, tables of content, footnotes, etc. Additionally, while customers can collaborate on basic docs without the above noted features, to collaborate on detailed docs, a company must implement a two part process – work together on the basic doc, save it to Word or Excel and then send via email for final edits. Yes they have a $50 price tag, but with the inefficiencies created by just this one cycle, how much do GAPE really cost – and can you afford the fidelity loss?

Yes, Google’s Apps are missing features, features that if all the hype about Google and high-speed coding were true, Apps would already have them. I’d never use Apps for a document I intended on printing out, and it doesn’t look like they even care if it is used for desktop publishing. And Microsoft is right on one thing; any company editing in Apps, then finishing in Office is just being stupid, and should stick with Office for the entire workflow.

“7. Enterprise companies have to constantly think about government regulations and standards – while Google can store a lot of data for enterprises on Google servers, there is no easy to use, automated way for enterprises to regularly delete data, issue a legal hold for specific docs or bring copies into the corp. What happens if a company needs to respond to government regulations bodies? Google touts 99.9% uptime for their apps but what few people realize that promise is for Gmail only. Equally alarming is the definition Google has for “downtime” – ten consecutive minutes of downtime. What happens if throughout the day Google is down 7 minutes each hour? What does 7 minutes each hour for a full work day that cost an enterprise?

The first half is an oft-cited point, and a good one. Google needs to implement local backups, preferably through Google Gears. If they hype on Gears is to be believed, this could have been done in a simplistic fashion months ago. Google’s got a lot of hype it doesn’t deliver on, and that doesn’t make them trustworthy. Company-side backups for compliance is 100% necessary for many, and until it happens, those companies can’t consider Apps.

The second half is unrealistic. 7 minutes, every hour? Please. Users would shit a brick if that happened. Google needs a more solid uptime guarantee, but this doomsday scenario isn’t helping anyone.

“8. In the world of business, it is always on and always connected. As such, having access to technical support 24/7 is essential. If a company deploys Google Apps and there is a technical issue at 8pm PST, Sorry. Google’s tech support is open M-F 1AM-6PM PST – are these the new hours of global business? And if a customer’s “designated administrator” is not available (a requirement) does business just stop?

Where did Google get those hours? Ah, 1 AM Pacific is morning in the foreign call centers Google has probably employed. Glad to see Google going with outsourced foreign customer service, which as we all know has a great reputation.

Jeez, pay a little extra for Americans. You’ll win some happy customers that way, trust me.

“9. Google says that enterprise customers use only 10% of the features in today’s productivity applications which implies that EVERYONE needs the SAME 10% of the feature when in fact it is very clear that in each company there are specific roles people play that demands access to specific information – how does Google’s generic strategy address role specific needs?

Good point. I use a bunch of high quality charts and visual materials, other require mail merge and form controls, others are heavy into macros, others into PowerPoint madness, others into… You get the point. I don’t even know some of the roles Office users fall into, and that means a lot of people to satisfy. Microsoft Office has something for everyone, while Google is a lot more limited and specific. There are few things Google has that Microsoft doesn’t, and there’s a ton of stuff Office has that Apps can’t and won’t.

“10. With Google apps in perpetual beta and Google controlling when and if they rollout specific features and functionality, customers have minimal if any control over the timing of product rollouts and features – how do 1) I know how to strategically plan and train and 2) get the features and functionality I have specifically requested? How much money does not knowing cost?

This is pretty much question 2 all over again, but there is a good argument here. Microsoft’s Office development process has become a thing of beauty over the years, to the point that if Office’s development team where working on Google Apps, Apps would be able to kick Microsoft Office’s ass. Google’s been moving slowly, especially in an environment where new versions should be coming monthly, not every three years like Office, and the development of Apps doesn’t make it seem like we should have a lot of confidence in their ability to move fast, compete and innovate.

I don’t know how much I agree with Microsoft, but they’ve got the superior product from now and speak from a position of strength. It’s hard to side with Google on anything but potential, and enterprise customers don’t usually sign giant contracts on potential. What do you think? Is Microsoft ridiculous for taking this tactic? Is it ridiculous because they are so far ahead? Do you agree with them? Are they just being naive?

Interestingly, Microsoft isn’t the only one striking like this. Zimbra, another competitor, is sending out emails challenging Google and saying the limitations of Apps (again citing government regulatory compliance) make it a terrible choice for businesses.

September 11th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Apps, Docs, Products, Microsoft, General | 3 comments


  1. […] I’ve got a long post over at InsideGoogle that should be of interest. Microsoft sent out this email listing ten questions companies should ask before thinking of switching to Google Apps, Google’s competitor to Microsoft Office. Some of Microsoft’s points are spot on, others questionable, and I’ve listed all ten and my own thoughts. Check it out. […]

    Pingback by Microsoft Issues Letter Attacking Google Apps » InsideMicrosoft » part of the Blog News Channel | September 11, 2007

  2. Are you sure Microsoft sent that email?

    Comment by Hashim Warren | September 11, 2007

  3. Pretty much. Mary Jo got it from a Microsoft spokesman.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | September 11, 2007

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