Google’s last gasp attempt to stop the Office 365 juggernaut

Google’s last gasp attempt to stop the Office 365 juggernaut

In October, Google announced that they would let customers who had a current enterprise agreement (EA) with Microsoft to use Google Apps for Work for free until the EA expires. At that point, the customer is expected to begin paying Google the regular subscription fees ($5 per month per user for the productivity apps or $10 per user for unlimited storage).

On the surface, this seems like a smart deal because it allows Google to release the financial lock-in that customers sometimes feel exists once they sign an EA with Microsoft. Whether they use on-premises servers or Office 365, it gives customers time to begin using Google Apps and to prepare for the final migration, a task that is not as easy as it appears, especially if people are avid Outlook users. Unfortunately, Google has never produced a seamless integration between Gmail and Outlook that delivers the same functionality as you get with either on-premises or cloud-based Exchange and that creates a challenge for some companies.

Other examples of migration challenges include moving SharePoint to Google Docs, especially if any customization has been done, and eDiscovery/compliance actions that are in flight. In summary, moving basic data is reasonably straightforward. The devil lies in all the details.

But good as the idea seems to be, I sincerely doubt that Google will win much business from Microsoft EA customers using these tactics. Although customers might not get as much benefit as they expect from an EA, largely because they never manage to use all the functionality that they license, getting a deal from Microsoft to continue using well-understood software to work with those familiar spreadsheets, documents, and presentations for a set period (usually three years) is a low-friction decision to make. The alternative is to plunge into a migration and while that looks a viable operation in PowerPoint, the reality is usually different.

Google is offering partners a bounty of $25 per user to help Microsoft customers move to Google Apps. That amount seems too small. Taking a $100/hour rate for a trainer/consultant, that means every user will get 15 minutes of help to make the move. For instance, a discussion about the differences between Excel and Google Sheets is likely to take much more than that and it might take days to transfer (or rewrite) complex spreadsheets.

Microsoft’s alternative is to offer customers the chance to move to Office 365. The signs are that an increasing number of companies are taking up that option to move workload into the cloud. The fact that Microsoft offers hybrid connectivity for both Exchange and SharePoint makes the transition easier, especially for large companies who are unable or unwilling to contemplate a total switchover.

Office 365 allows customers to continue using software that they know, albeit in an environment that is in a state of constant change. The downside is that Office 365 often forces the pace for client-side updates too, meaning that customers have to use recent versions of Office desktop applications if they want to connect to the service.

Another thing is that Office 365 offers more options than Google Apps for Work does. Those options go lower (the kiosk and basic plans) and higher (the high-end enterprise, academic, and government plans) and are supported by enterprise-centric offerings such as ExpressRoute for Office 365. The simplicity of the Google offering competes with the wider spectrum offered by Microsoft. As evident in this useful spreadsheet, the array of functionality available through the different Office 365 plans can be overly complex to navigate. However, people do like choice, especially when it comes to large enterprises.

The funny thing is that Google had a much better shot at going after Microsoft some years ago. BPOS had horrible reliability and Microsoft had no browser versions of apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The first months of Office 365 exposed some weaknesses too. Since 2011 the landscape has changed fundamentally as Microsoft has proven Office 365 can deliver a high-quality, feature-rich service on a global basis with an impressive array of mobile, browser, and desktop clients. I guess Google wasn’t so worried then because they were winning more deals then. It’s a different matter now and this latest initiative smacks of some desperation. The juggernaut rolls on…

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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