Microsoft offers Office 365 carrot to disenfranchised Google Apps small-business users

Microsoft offers Office 365 carrot to disenfranchised Google Apps small-business users

Summary: Microsoft is extending its free trial for Office 365 for small businesses, hoping to lure those who are unhappy with Google's decision to eliminate its free Google Apps version.


Microsoft is extending its Office 365 Small Business free trial from 30 to 90 days, hoping to attract some disenfranchised small-business Google Apps customers who are unhappy about Google's recent decision to start charging for its hosted apps service.


Google announced on December 7 that new users will have to pay $50 per user per year for Google Apps starting in January 2013. Existing Google Apps for Business users who have the free version won't be affected by the price increase.

That $50 fee is still cheaper than Microsoft's comparable offering for small-business users -- Office 365 Small Business (P1), which costs $6 per user per month, or $72 per year. Microsoft still hasn't unveiled the final pricing for its updated Office 365 line-up or made its new packages available to users; both of those things are expected to happen simultaneously with the Office 2013 launch, which is sounding like it could happen at the very end of January 2013.

But as one Microsoft partner told me recently, the mental hurdle between free and paid is a lot higher than the hurdle between $50 and $72.

"For whatever the reason that Google Apps has killed off the free version, this is an opportunity that levels the playing field for Microsoft partners. It creates an opportunity to have businesses avoid the siren call of free and get them to focus on actual features and functionality," said Chris Hertz, CEO with Washington, DC-based New Signature.

Microsoft announced the extension of the free trial on December 18. The 90-day trial is open to any organizations with up to 10 users. Those interested can sign up from now to the end of February 2013.

As my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott and other Microsoft watchers have noted, only paying Google Apps users will still be able to use Google Sync, Google's implementation of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync protocol, to syncronize calendars and contacts on new mobile devices as of January 31, 2013.

Former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson has a good post about what he sees as the rather minimal impact of Google's EAS move on Microsoft customers.

I've asked Microsoft's Windows Phone team for information on what, if anything, it plans to do to help Windows Phone users continue to be able to sync with Google's calendar/contacts after January 30. So far, no response.

But users can employ Outlook 2013’s newly improved IMAP support to connect with their Gmail accounts, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. However, "at this time Gmail has not implemented the version of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) used by Outlook 2013, which requires EAS 14.0 or later," the spokesperson noted.

Microsoft has a Web page with instructions for setting up Outlook email both with EAS and IMAP/POP.

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Google, Microsoft, Google Apps


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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  • Free trial vs go ahead and pay for what you have been using for free?

    It will be interesting to see what the numbers turn out to be after the smoke clears.

    From the linked article: "Microsoft has never supported CalDAV for calendaring or CardDAV for contacts, but these are open standards that Microsoft can easily support tactically. In other words, if Microsoft cares about Google’s move it would be easy for them to add support for this technology to those products where it feels they make sense."

    The question here is really can MS stick to its guns and hold their "It's our way or the hi-way" approach when it comes to standards. If MS were to give a little here and support open standards they may really have something, else the SMBs who likely chose Google to avoid vendor lock-in in the first place do not have much to gain. Taking up the free trial offer is a temporary fix and a move that, once the free period is over, still does not leave them with a secure feeling about future cost of services. after all, MS will raise rates on locked in customers to fill other revenue voids as it does now.

    If Win8, Surface and WP8 sales do not improve what happens to the SMBs who take the bait and are prime targets for future MS price increases?
    • Microsoft may have had a "my way or the highway" attitude in the past

      But, that attitude towards standards is pretty much gone now. They adopt standards all the time, including, at times, pledging their IP to the cause in a royalty free fashion (not always, but sometimes).

      Microsoft doesn't have a group of people who sit around thinking up ways of screwing over their customers. They do what is in Microsoft's best interests and in the best interests of Microsoft customers. If they want to add support for free GMail back into WP8 or the WinRT calendar/contacts apps, it will get done (and likely rather quickly).

      That said, if you re-read Berenson's post, he points out that EAS is a much better protocol for mobile clients (since it includes push and management, not just sync).
      • Explain to me windows 8 again?

        How was Windows 8 "in the best interests of Microsoft customers"? I can see how its "in Microsoft's best interests", as they want to sell more phones, so they decided to make their desktop operating system the same. in effect turning every PC in Windows 8 phone.

        Also EAS is patented, and Microsoft sued Motorola for use of EAS in Motorola's products. So how is EAS an open standard? and why doesn't Microsoft provide support for other standards such as CalDAV for calendaring or CardDAV for contacts?

        I believe the reason they have done this is because Microsoft is going after Google for the use of EAS in their online services, like Microsoft did to Motorola.
        • Nothing stays the same, bro!

          Every company has a computing paradigm change from time-to-time. Putting a tablet and desktop OS together is just fine, since the vast majority of devices being sold under W8 have touch and are readily used as laptop or laptop replacements. Certainly, MS could have thought through the potential backlash more and given people the opportunity boot straight into the desktop and or to use the classic start menu. But in very short order most of these users would find themselves using a handful of Modern UI apps, finding at least a modest amount of value in their new computing paradigm.
          • Boot to desktop

            I use Windows 8 Pro on both laptop and tablet and I'll agree that booting to the Start Screen does add 5 seconds or so to open the desktop and there are (were) many tiles that I don't use, so I removed those. And I've actually found it faster to go from desktop to start screen to launch the programs I use often, plus there are some very good 3rd party apps that I love. But, I keep programs and websites that I use daily pinned to the taskbar and many websites pinned to ie10 on the taskbar because I do use the desktop far more than the start screen, so I almost never shut down the laptop so it stays on the desktop with no need to sign in again. And as dastopher said, there are quite a few 3rd party programs that allow booting directly to the desktop- but the 'tile' UI is here to stay and I think Microsoft wants people to be accustomed to the future of personal computing. After all, 'tiles' that you click or touch are really no different than 'icons' that work the same. Except that many tiles can be 'live' tiles and update regularly and display new mail or messages, or Facebook, etc.
        • Let me explain...

          It's very simple actually. Windows lets you change the user interface with 3rd party apps. It has always been customizable in this fashion.
      • EAS

        There is no dispute that EAS is a better mobile protocol. The dispute is why doesn't Microsoft support open protocols? Why not support WebDAV, CardDAV, CalDAV? Why not truly support ODF? Why call their own proprietary protocols "open" when in fact you have to pay a licensing fee? Microsoft has always been about "embrace and extend"; well "extend" in their eyes.
        • The answer is pretty obvious... And self-answered...

          "Why not support WebDAV, CardDAV, CalDAV? Why not truly support ODF?"

          Well, to answer your own question: "There is no dispute that EAS is a better mobile protocol."

          Doing so requires an additional investment in their software. Obviously, it is not important enough to enough of Microsoft's customers to be a high priority for Microsoft to put in the effort or expense to support these standards. In fact, the people who would most benefit from such an investment would be Microsoft's competitors.

          Just like anything else, there has to be some kind of strategic advantage for a commercial software company to make a development decision like this.

          Picture yourself in a prioritization session with the head of the Office Products Division trying to sell them on the idea that they should invest thousands of dollars in software developer wages in order to provide support for a standard that would benefit their competitors a lot, a few customers a little, and themselves not at all.

          And then tell me how you're going to avoid getting hit in the head with a flying chair.
  • And media

    And media is right now trying to say that Google went and disabled GMail from Windows Phone users, while it isn't true. People still can use GMail like to this day, having IMAP or POP3 (if really wanted) protocol and so on getting the 15minute refresh time (depends from Microsoft, not from Google) or when syncing manually.

    If Windows Phone users want open standards, free data and open APIs, there is no reason to use Microsoft at all what just does vendor lock-in and try to force users to use Windows 8 and so on get companies buy Windows servers.

    It is as well bad thing that Google has lost many points in my list because it forces to use a Google+ account for many things. Like you can no longer review goods in play store if you don't have Google+. If Google would allow any Google+ user to have a single anonymous nickname for public use (Google could know your real name), then it would be OK.
    • The problem is

      Most users don't care about open vs proprietary.

      If it works, they'll use it.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Until they want to share those documents

        And that's google apps' strength. They convert MS docs better than MS's own software. Go with MS only if you're determined you want to stay inside their prison.
        • Huh?

          Sharing documents is easy on Microsoft software too. :|
          Michael Alan Goff
        • Bullshyt.

          "And that's google apps' strength. They convert MS docs better than MS's own software. Go with MS only if you're determined you want to stay inside their prison."

          You know, I hear a lot of Open Source folk talk about how some LibreOffice and OpenOffice and YahooOffice and GoogleOffice and whatever non-MS Office application magically opens some fabled old-version MS Office document better than MS Office 2007 or 2010. Yet, whenever asked to provide an example, they quickly clam up.

          For some reason, I'm a bit skeptical about the idea that a company with no access to the source code or data format of previous (non-OOXML) Office documents, and without the same functionality in the software (especially spreadsheets), and who basically had to reverse-engineer the format to make it compatible in the first place somehow built a "better" tool to open and convert those documents than the original author did.

          Such an assertion requires proof.
          • And yet, MICRSOFT "reverse engineered" WordPerfect to make Word!

            And yet, MICRSOFT "reverse engineered" WordPerfect to make Word! So your point is moot. So, maybe you can answer your own question, because your answer IS the proof of the assertion - if you truly believe what you said: "How can a company reverse engineer something that they DON'T have the source code for, and make a BETTER product?" - Go ask Micrsoft how they made WordPerfect into MS-Word by reverse engineering it - It is done ALL the time - I have many friends who work for Microsoft - this is not a secret (though not 'openly talked about'). Again, your point is moot.
          • So

            I've been hearing from everyone how WordPerfect was better, but Word was just "better integrated" and "Microsoft screwed over the competition". Is this not true?
            Michael Alan Goff
          • That's a very interesting distinction in itself..

            "I've been hearing from everyone how WordPerfect was better, but Word was just "better integrated" "

            I've heard that as well. The interesting follow up is asking "what is better about WordPerfect?" Most of the time, people bring up the formatting codes (which, is a pretty cool feature) and other formatting features that not a lot of people use. The end result is, though, that the statement that something is "better" is pretty subjective.

            On the other hand, stating that Word is "Better Integrated" is fairly concrete and easy to prove or disprove. Generally, Word really is better integrated, if for no other reason than the companion office applications (Excel, etc) tend to integrate better with Word than the WordPerfect equivalents (Quattro Pro, etc).

            The final kicker being, of course, that if tight integration is important to you, then Word is the clear winner (it is clearly better at the thing you need it for), whereas if your needs are "I need to write stuff", then stating that WordPerfect is better without qualification doesn't really help you much here.
          • Did you even comprehend my point?

            "And yet, MICRSOFT "reverse engineered" WordPerfect to make Word! So your point is moot."

            What was my point then, doctor? Was it to contend that Microsoft Office opens WordPerfect files better than WordPerfect or OpenOffice? I don't think it was, because I don't believe I made any reference to WordPerfect at all.

            But sure, let's follow your.. um... "logic" to its conclusion then, shall we? Starting with one basic fact - WordPerfect can open MS Word documents (and has been able to for years), while MS Word cannot open WordPerfect documents. If MS Word is really a reverse-engineered version of WordPerfect, then you've just made my point - reverse engineering a file format obviously doesn't give you better compatibility than the native product.

            I'd ask what your point is, but it's pretty obvious that you needed to go on a mindless rant because you miss the good ol' days of DOS and white text-on-blue backgrounds and pressing F-something to save files. Because most of the time period after those days only exists with WordPerfect in a coffin.
  • Google Apps for Business free trial

    30 days, any sized business ... and you don't even have to try and figure out what "P" you're getting.
    • Huh? What's that mean: "What 'P' you're getting?"

      Maybe I should get the point but caffeine is sadly lacking and/or ineffective today.

      Huh? What's that mean: "What 'P' you're getting?"
  • Microsoft offers Office 365 carrot to disenfranchised Google Apps small-bus

    Its a good deal. At least if you go with Microsoft Office 365 you won't have any document incompatibilities. Microsoft is sure to make documents you created work between Office and Office 365. Plus there is none of that Google spying on you either.