Google Attacks Microsoft Cyber Failures in Effort to Steal Customers

The company criticized its rival in a white paper and is offering government and corporate clients discounts to ditch Office for its software.

Bloomberg News

May 20, 2024

2 Min Read
a Microsoft store in New York

(Bloomberg) -- Google is betting Microsoft Corp.’s very public cybersecurity failures — along with deep discounts — will persuade corporate and government customers to use the search giant’s productivity software rather than Office.

Government agencies that switch 500 or more users to Google Workspace Enterprise Plus for three years will get one year free and be eligible for  a “significant discount” for the rest of the contract, said Andy Wen, the senior director of product management for Workspace. The Alphabet Inc. division is offering 18 months free to corporate customers that sign a three-year contract, a hefty discount after that and incident response services from Google’s Mandiant security business. All customers will receive free consulting services to help them make the switch.

Google also released a white paper Monday highlighting its rival’s security lapses, and is considering launching similarly-themed social-media and advertising campaigns.

“The repeated security challenges with Microsoft call for a better alternative for enterprises and public-sector organizations alike,” Google wrote in the white paper.  “We believe Google Workspace presents a safer alternative, with a proven track record of engineering excellence, deep investment in cutting edge defenses, and a transparent culture where providing security for customers is treated as a profound responsibility.”

Last month, the US Cyber Safety Review Board issued a scathing report documenting Microsoft’s inability to stop China-linked hackers from breaking into the email accounts of US officials last year. The report called on Microsoft to institute urgent reforms, which the company has pledged to do as part of its biggest security overhaul in more than two decades. 

Google has struggled to persuade customers to ditch Office but says Microsoft’s cybersecurity travails have made customers more open to switching. At a recent Google conference, according to Wen, corporate customers said their boards and executives had given them a deadline to stop using Microsoft because they could “no longer sustain the risk.”

Wen also noted that Google conducted its own security overhaul after a 2009 hack that saw Chinese-linked attackers breach the company’s servers and gain access to a database containing details of US surveillance targets. 

The timing could be advantageous. People are increasingly familiar with Google’s applications after using them at home and school, while some corporations are unhappy with Office price increases and additional fees to use new artificial intelligence features.

There also is some appetite to reduce government agencies’ reliance on one vendor — especially one with security issues — according to Jeanette Manfra, a former Department of Homeland Security official who now runs Google’s global risk and compliance operation.

Still, Google will have to overcome cultural resistance, she said, in part because many federal chief information officers are in their roles for only a few years and typically shy away from major new projects.

“It’s a lot easier to just stick with your same path,” she said.

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