Software-as-a-service pundits and analysts have hit back hard at Microsoft's criticisms of Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) as backwards-looking and fear-mongering.
"Like [US hockey legend] Wayne Gretzky says: 'Go to where the puck's gonna be, not where it is'," said Doug Farber, Salesforce.com's vice president of operations for Asia Pacific, responding to Microsoft's arguments against the use of GAPE.
"Of course Google will have less rich document processing features, of course it doesn't have tables and footnotes. But that's not hard to do and they will be able to do it in a short time. It's a classic case of going to where the puck was and not where it's going," he told ZDNet Australia.
Google and Salesforce.com have partnered to cheerlead the on-demand message of lower capital expenditure, automatic software upgrades and no contract renewals.
"Google's in the early stages of [the hosted desktop application] initiative but just like we evolved rapidly, Google -- with its horsepower and innovation -- will be capable of making quantum leaps and will get to where Microsoft is faster than Microsoft did," said Farber.
As for Microsoft's criticism that Google launches perpetually "in beta" releases of software, he said: "Everyone knows that it takes at least three releases for Microsoft to get it right. Think of the Xbox, Micosoft's CRM system and Windows."
However, as an enterprise solution, doubt still exists as to whether commercial organisations are willing to adopt an on-demand hosted model.
Jason Polites, technical director at Synetek Systems, an Australian-based hosted provider of e-mail-archiving and contract administration applications, said: "It was odd for Google to partner with Capgemini and move into the enterprise space with that offer. There's resistance at all levels [to software-as-a-service] but we see resistance to SaaS as a platform increasing with the size of the company."
Resistance takes two forms, he said. Users will resist retraining if they are familiar with an existing system like Office, while for organisations there is the issue of losing control over corporate data.
"Really, Google can only overcome this [data control] issue with a commercial agreement. That is, 'Warrant me with use of solution and offer indemnity against any data loss'. But this gets complicated with cross-jurisdictional contracts ... At a large business or government level, they need to know the commercial agreement they have can be pursued in litigation and that it has substance," he said.
IBRS analyst Joe Sweeney told ZDNet Australia that Microsoft's 10 reasons for not trusting GAPE miss the point most IT managers should be asking themselves.
"What businesses should be asking is: how much of that old formal stuff is still required? Did we go too far with restricting staff in the past? What are the risks for opening up processes and collaboration and empowering staff to 'do their own thing?'" said Sweeney.
"As an enterprise tool, GAPE lacks important features - especially document management, compliance, and process workflow," Sweeney told ZDNet Australia. While Microsoft criticised GAPE's weaknesses as an enterprise document management solution, Sweeney said Microsoft's assertion that Office is, is "questionable".
"The main problem with Microsoft's response is that it assumes that all of these more formal methodologies are required for all applications, on all clients, all of the time," he said.
"What should alarm IT managers is that few of us have asked the above questions ourselves, nor do we have a framework to engage executive management in the discussion. While a lock-it-down mentality does help to avoid disasters, there is a growing argument that some aspects of work should be less controlled."