Microsoft: Who's afraid of big, bad Google?

Microsoft: Who's afraid of big, bad Google?

Summary: It's going to take a lot more than a Web-based productivity suite aimed at business users to get Microsoft panicked about Google. That's the main message the Redmond software maker is expected to seed among market researchers via a strategy-update call on February 22.

TOPICS: Microsoft

It's going to take a lot more than a Web-based productivity suite aimed at business users to get Microsoft panicked about Google.

That's the main message the Redmond software maker hoped to seed among market researchers via a strategy-update call on February 22.

It was purely coincidental that Microsoft scheduled its own software-plus-services (SPS?) call the same day that Google launched its software-as-a-service (SaaS) Web-based office suite aimed at business users, Microsoft officials said.

"For the record, this is a long-scheduled thing, has nothing to do with anything in the news," Adam Sohn, a Microsoft Director of Global Sales & Marketing PR, said.

However, the timing couldn't have been better for Microsoft, given the flood of pundits proclaiming that Microsoft Office was now officially toast, as a result of Google's unveiling of Google Apps Premier Edition.

"Microsoft knows it's getting Googled," said Yankee Group analyst Laura Didio. "This is their latest attempt to make themselves look edgier and look like they have a plan to move toward SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and services." 

On the Microsoft call, Charles Fitzgerald, Microsoft's general manager of platform strategies, attempted to drill into analysts' heads, yet again, Microsoft's contention that software and services are not exclusive, analysts said. Windows Live services are complementary to Windows. Ditto with Office Live and Office.

DiDio said Microsoft also emphasized how it is decoupling its applications from the platform, allowing its software to run on non-Windows systems and devices.

As company officials have been emphasizing for the past couple of years, Microsoft is going to continue to develop the two in tandem, not replace software with services. That doesn't mean Microsoft is simply sticking its head in the sand though, company officials are stressing. Microsoft is pushing harder and spending more to make sure that it has services that will extend desktop and server software.

The message is "there are lots of synergies in their products," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with The Burton Group. "Even Google is pitching that (Google Apps Premier Edition" is more complementary to (Microsoft) Office than competitive."

O'Kelly reiterated that it's more of a battle of data centers between Microsoft and Google, than it is a battle of the office suites.

There's another services area Microsoft's plumbing that Google doesn't seem to be: Server-side services. Microsoft is just starting to test the waters here with InfoPath forms services, Excel services and Project services -- all of which complement SharePoint Server.. (I hear that Access services might be among the next batch to arrive.)

Even though Google's got more buzz, don't count Microsoft out, O'Kelly said. If you look historically at when Microsoft "really gets galvanized, it's when they face an existential crisis," he said. It took Firefox's growth to reenergize Microsoft's Internet Explorer strategy and product line.

Don't be surprised to see Google's Web-app push "help accelerate Microsoft's investment in this area," O'Kelly said. Without Google's push, it might have taken Microsoft a much longer time to add services to its software, O'Kelly said.

Right now, Microsoft "is not articulating their message well enough," DiDio said. But she added that she thought "Google was getting a pass at this point for being hot," and that it still had a long way to go to deliver on its vision. 

Topic: Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Office? What Office!!

    Why waste any money!!?? In our office we have just bought new hardware and software and our dear IT dept bought us Office 2007!! It's a nightmare of weird tabs and asking where the heck have the idiots put that!!??

    On my PC at home I saved all the mony for myself and downloaded OpenOffice! OK it has some limitations but at least it's simple and does what I want it to do! i.e. Word processiing and spread sheets. Lets face it we're not talking rocket science here are we!!!!
    • Office 2007 hard to use???

      You find Office 2007 hard to use? My mother took 20 minutes to work it out, and myself and my brother took less than 5 minutes to perfect out usage.

      I think you should pack up your computer and get out your pens and paper.
    • My wife said the same thing when we tried the beta!

      We booted the sucker. How arrogantly presumptuous! It's like they are saying, "Hey, it's our software; we'll make any changes we want!" This time, with Vista sucking and their snafu, they've gone too far.

      And to think, Office was once considered the "best" division for products and features and customer feedback conversion. No mas, no mas!
  • Hi great

    Microsoft is of course number 1,no one can snatch its position
    • The Eighties

      Once upon a time, the very idea that a desktop could be other than one of a few miini-computers was ridiculed. No way could an office be run on a micro. (Sure, some offices had mainframes, but mainframes weren't affordable for small businesses, not even mid-size offices could put that money down).
      But micros came in the back doors of mid-size businesses, and the front doors of small businesses because MS Word was cheap compared to Wang and DEC minis, (and easily pirated, too).
      So Microsoft got its monopoly and promptly capitalized on it.
      MS Word is a long way from being the cheaper alternative these days, and a lot harder to pirate.
      Thus I must wonder, is Google emulating Microsoft's strategy by infiltrating from small businesses up into the enterprise?
  • Weird tabs

    The primary reason Office 2007 has the weird tabs can be classified as the 'grand update'. For those of us who build web sites, build applications, work with vector art and photo imaging applications, we've gotten used to a commonality of tabs, icons, pop-outs and overall interface. Only the MS Office applications fell behind the times with their GUI's, and frankly, counterproductive to speed and logic. From what I've seen of the new Office applications interface, Microsoft has finally joined the professional fold.

    With all of the lawsuits directed against Microsoft we need to have something in reserve in case Microsoft dissolves.It's getting too dangerous.
  • I Am!

    I find Google much more frightening than I ever imagined Microsoft could be! Big Brother in private form, and getting "bigger."

    And mrmckeb -- you're absolutely right. Making the transition should be a 20-minute task at the outside!
  • Hi great

    Microsoft is of course number 1,no one can snatch its position