IBM's announcement of a new hosted entry-level communications offering has led to lots of punditry around how it compares to Google Apps. But I'm not sure that's IBM's main competition here.
Google Apps Premier, which costs $50 per user per year, includes Web-based office applications (Google Docs), plus Gmail for businesses, Google Calendar, Google Sites and Postini hosted/archived email. IBM's LotusLive iNotes includes hosted email, calendar and contact management service -- but no hosted productivity apps -- for $36 per user per year.
I've seen almost no one analyzing IBM's new hosted offering in comparison to what Microsoft is offering business users.
Microsoft already has a business-focused hosted e-mail/collaboration product on the market known as the Deskless Worker Suite, which includes Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. Customers can get that suite for $36 per user per year. Exchange Online Deskless Worker includes e-mail, calendaring, global contact lists, anti-virus and anti-spam filters, and provides access to company e-mail via Outlook Web Access Light. SharePoint Online Deskless Worker gives you read-only access to SharePoint portal and team sites. If users want only Exchange Online Deskless or SharePoint Online Deskless, it's $24 per user per service per year.
Microsoft offers a more comprehensive hosted communications/collaboration subscription service -- one that includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Communications Online (corporate instant messaging and presence) and Live Meeting (Web conferencing and videoconferencing) -- for $180 per user per year. That is the company's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).
I asked Microsoft for its take on IBM's LotusLive iNotes announcement. I received back a statement from Clint Patterson, Director, Microsoft Unified Communications Group:
"Our competitors are just awakening to the fact that - when it comes to communications - one size doesn't fit all. This flexibility - to equip occasional users with a low-priced, integrated email service as part of Exchange Online - has really resonated with our customers, and we've seen companies like GlaxoSmithKline choose Exchange Online Deskless, which costs $2 per user per month and works with the applications they already use, for more than 10% of their employees. Businesses don't care for consumer offerings dressed up as enterprise ready solutions, and millions of companies - and more every day - are choosing Exchange for the scalability and reliability it delivers, whether on-premises or online."
When Microsoft unveiled its Deskless Worker offerings back in the summer of 2008 that a number of pundits wondered aloud who the "deskless workers" were whom Microsoft was targeting with these products. As I recall, Microsoft's unveiling and explanation of the Deskless Worker features and pricing was confusing to us in the press and many in Microsoft's partner network alike. Now it seems as though industry watchers have forgotten that Microsoft has been selling these products for more than a year.