Microsoft vs. Google: The view from the Office 365 trenches

Microsoft vs. Google: The view from the Office 365 trenches

Summary: What's working -- and not -- for Microsoft and partners selling Office 365 against Google Apps?


Microsoft's Google-compete campaign, increasingly orchestrated by Mark Penn and team, has been focused heavily around Redmond's "Scroogled" messaging.


But in the trenches, Microsoft and partners are focused on much more mundane realities. In the Office 365 vs. Google Apps arena, specifically, the battle is pitched and nasty.

During last week's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner reiterated something he said at the previous year's partner conference: That Microsoft and partners should not lose a single potential Office 365 sale to Google. (A year ago, Turner even offered to personally help and intervene if need be.)

This year, there were a number of public sessions for the 14,000 or so WPC attendees about selling Office 365. And there seemingly was at least one (though likely more) private one. The "Winning with Office 365 Every Time: Resources and Approach" -- despite the fact it was clearly marked "Do Not Publish," somehow made it onto Microsoft's Web site.

The description of the session described it as how to win against Google in the U.S. by "exploiting Google’s weaknesses around security, privacy, and compliance." The summary of the session coninued:

"Google has emerged as a formidable competitor to Microsoft Office 365, but what customers don’t know is that using Google puts their intellectual property at risk. Make no mistake: Google is in the productivity business to get access to information that it can index. It’s in Google’s contract: “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google… a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify,… publish,… publicly display and distribute such content .” The Office 365 product team and corporate legal team will talk about how Office 365 is engineered and managed with security, privacy, and compliance in mind. You will learn how to use those issues as opportunities to enlighten and advise your customers. You will gain Microsoft’s content and expertise in having these conversations, and see how this conversation fits into the new Office business-value conversation."

However, the content of the session, which I watched on demand from the public-facing WPC site, didn't mirror this description.

The reasons Microsoft loses to Google, according to Therese Connor, Office 365 Senior Product Marketing Manager, revolve around reasons such as the fact that many Exchange and Office customers are running very old versions of these products, making it easy for Google to swoop in and offer something that looks significantly better, feature-wise. Microsoft's partners need to prevent Google from setting the conversation by being proactive and getting in there first, said Connor.

Connor noted that it can be very costly for Microsoft to lose out to Google and then try to re-win the deal. She acknowledged that "in some instances, we had to buy out the contract" in order to regain a key customer from Google. (These kinds of tactics are why I almost never write about customer win stories; it's almost always impossible to really know why customers went with a particular vendor over its competitor, in spite of what the customers say/are allowed to say publicly.)

Losing to Google when it's pitching Postini -- Google's email security and archiving services which are now part of the Google Apps platform -- is, from Microsoft's view, "equivalent to a platform loss," Connor acknowledged. As a result, migrating users off Postini to Microsoft's head-to-head competitor, Exchange Online Protection (EOP), is a top priority.

Microsoft is advising its partners to "lead with value, not price," which isn't too surprising, given Google's lower base price for its Apps service when compared to Office 365. While Google is offering a "one-size fits all" SKU, that's not necessarily a bad thing, Connor admitted.

Though more Office 365 SKUs means more flexibility, it also means more complexity. "We have a host of SKUs -- it's actually dizzying," she said, especially when you look at all SKUs, pricing, flavors. (One partner who spoke up during the session said Google's pitch of $50 per user per year to get rid of users' pain was easy and effective. He said Microsoft partners need a 30-second pitch as to why Office 365 beats Google.)

Microsoft officials allowed Exoprise Systems, which makes CloudReady Monitor, a Google-compete tool (also known as a "Google kill kit," Expoprise officials joked), to present during the session. The tool is designed to help partners build the business case for Office 365 more quickly and "show how much pain users will feel by Going to Google," officials said during the session. Exoprise allows users to see calculations of parameters such as the number of document attachments in email, the amount of storage a user is deploying for certain apps/data, and other similar information.

It's worth noting Microsoft is taking steps to try to help partners sell Office 365. Last week during WPC, company officials announced plans to add migration SKUs and more Microsoft-hosted apps to set of deliverables its Office 365 resellers can carry. Microsoft also launched in April its Office 365 FastTrack program, designed to get Office 365 pilot systems running in an hour, rather than taking days for full deployments.

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Google, Microsoft, Unified Comms


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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  • Its Like MS Office vs. Word Perfect Office all over again.

    And we know how that ended.
    • Re: Its Like MS Office vs. Word Perfect Office all over again.

      Except in this case Google is the upstart Microsoft muscling in on the incumbent Microsoft playing the WordPerfect part.

      WordPerfect didn't handle the shift from PC/MS-DOS to Windows very well; Microsoft isn't handling the shift to post-PC very well.
      • How so?

        "Microsoft isn't handling the shift to post-PC very well."

        Legitimate question, I'm actually curious why you say that...
        • Obvious

          They are playing catch up in every regard instead of leading. Listen, I think Office and Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, etc runs rings around Google Apps feature-wise. RINGS! But so did Lotus AmiPro- yes, even on Windows. AmiPro was a gazillion times better than Word 2.0. MS Word was barebones and simple. MS Office won out because it harnessed Windows (especially Win95) in a way the other 2 guys didn't (Lotus, WordPerfect) with stuff like long filenames in Win95, UI improvements, multitasking, etc.

          Now the web is Google's "Windows" (Mobile is too). MS is struggling to move to this new platform. They are at a disadvantage and way too sloooooooow. I'm not counting them out, but they have to start reacting way faster to stay competitive. They can't rely on their sales team. They have to recapture mindshare. That means new features all the time, not once a year. That means bug fixes right away, not months away. Windows 8.1 should have come out last Spring, not next Fall. People would have been impressed. Windows 8 is dead in the water as a result. Surface still has a chance, but they were not competitive on price. Windows Phone? The lack of apps is killer. They though that if they "built it, developers would come." No. They had to be way more proactive.
          • Agreed

            I largely agree with this. Consider: the iPad was released April 2010. The Motorola Xoom, the first true Android tablet, was released Feb 2011. The surface RT hit shelves in October 2012, and the pro went on sale in early 2013. It took Microsoft 2 and a half years to release a competitor to the iPad. It was about a year and a half behind Google!

            I don't dislike Microsoft. I have a Surface RT and use it daily. Love the thing. Am typing on it now. But there's just no way to deny that Microsoft has been very slow to react to the Mobile/Post-PC computing revolution.
          • well, I do dislike m$

            Being in IT 25 years, I've seen how bad they are and what they have done to stifle innovation and competition.

            But what I really dislike about them now is that they have tons of cash, lots of resources (employees), huge brand name and market penetration.

            Yet, all they can do is copy, copy, copy. Why not blaze their own trail instead of waiting for apple and google and then copy, copy, copy.
          • MS is the equivalent of Blackberry - which is sad

            I couldn't agree with you more GrabBoyd. Like Blackberry (formerly RIM), with such a large and talented workforce, there is just simply no reason for them to attempt to "lead from behind". I wonder about this. At one time Microsoft (like RIIM) was the leader in their products, and rightfully so. Did no one keep his ear to the ground all those years, when folks complained of bloatware? I know this is all easy for me to say, in an armchair quarterback manner, but the fact is, innovators are usually a few steps ahead of the pack, anticipating the market and in a constant quest for new ideas. That "bloatware" complaint translated to "newer, sleeker, smaller". In fact, Microsoft had their own tablet OS out before Apple, but they all fell and died, because of this inattention to detail. Sad.
          • Agreed. I think it's a management problem

            Why was Microsoft able to beat IBM at their own game? Because they were agile and adjusted quickly.

            Why is Google in the dominant position now? Because it's agile and adjusts quickly.

            Their both large organizations. So what's different? Google is still run like a start-up. Microsoft is layered with so much executive bureaucracy that it's like trying to stop a freight train on a dime then throw it into reverse.
          • Re: Why was Microsoft able to beat IBM at their own game?

            They did not. Never beat IBM in their own game. IBM are still unchallenged in what they do.

            In fact, Microsoft (and Intel) were hired by IBM to help them in their war against Apple. Eventually Microsoft tricked IBM (which is not the same as beat) with software development or plain betrayed them. IBM eventually declared defeat to Apple and left the PC business. Microsoft remained.. but -- with no new ideas.

            Google.. they have different business model. The growth pains for Google are yet to come --- we will then see how their management will handle the situation. If the NSA doesn't find someone else by that time, that is ;-)
          • Agree with GrabBoyd!

            MS has a long list of exellent products taht it has removed from all of us and replaced them with inferior products which eventually approach what they replaced. I recall back in the 90's when I needed to get staff and students on the Internet, IE was not even on MS's radar as something tehy should think about so we used Netscape Navigator. We also use Novell for our network servers and MS only offered Windows for Work Groups (Windows 3.11) and was really lame. Novell invented directories with EDir and MS decided they wantted to own it so now we have active directory... as You said, copy copy copy. And as you also said, they have lots of people and money and still amazes me that they cannot innovate. I personally think that their accounting people rule the directions for the company and we all know that accountants can't see passed the next quartery financial statement. Google does what it does for cool reasons and not for purely financial reasons much the way Park Labrotpries and Xerox did many years ago - to innovate for the sole reason to innovate and not necessarily make a buck off of it. If Edison's work was directed by an accountant, we would all still be typing on our computers under candle light! ;-)
            Dan Marvin
          • Hello, its 2013.

            You are talking about a Microsoft from 25 years ago. Unfortunately, that doesn't reflect the company that exists today. Today they are a very innovative and research heavy company that hasn't copied. Google is now the Microsoft of 25 years ago, and Microsoft is a new company driving innovation and research. They still make mistakes, but to compare them to the company of 25 years ago is ignorant.
          • Google is now the Microsoft of 25 yrs ago?

            Whaa? That makes no sense unless you mean Google's bringing easy to use, innovative products to the masses in highly affordable and practical packages. To compare them to the Microsoft of 25 years ago is ignorant.
            Robert Buchko
          • Examples

            Please give me even 10 examples of meaningful Google innovations from past two years?

            I think googles biggest innovation is actually their business model. How they act as a middle man between consumers and businesses. Consumers access businesses through googles free services making google a "nice guy" in their eyes. Google makes their money from businesses who takes their money from consumers. This is just so ingenious. No wonder their stock is sky high.
          • Wow, your history is a bit muddled...

            ... Steve Jobs vowed to use every last dime to vanquish Google; mostly for copying. Apple and Microsoft both copied from Xerox to get Windows (don't believe me? go to the Smithsonian and view the pre-Apple, pre-Microsoft Xerox Parc machine. Android is constantly running afoul of patents (yeah, I'm not a fan of our patent system either). All the big ones (and most of the small ones) copy. So you should examine your dislike of Microsoft, or choose a more believable reason. :)
          • Well, if that is the case:

            Then Google is thriving, and Steve Jobs threw away billions to make millions.
            Richard Estes
          • steve jobs ain't God

            or anything.
          • GrabBoyd, copy?

            MS had web apps in the 1990s, so that excludes them from copying Google.
            Apple had a jump on tablets only because instead of copying, Apple Steals, then patents what it steals, then buries the person they stole from as a finishing touch.
            Yeah, that's something to be proud of.

            w/o windows the web would be at least 10 years and probably further behind.
            When Windows/PC clones hit the market it took off like wildfire and there was nobody else positioned to do so. If there had been no Windows, which ahs been the main reason the web has grown so quickly (billion+ windows PCs on the web, right? ) there was nobody in any position to sell as many PC as quickly as the OEMs did with Windows. Nobody. Apple was selling 2000.00 to 3000.00 PCs which only the elite could afford and IBM was similar with propritary and expensive hardware, just like Apple, and that was going nowhere fast.
            There simply woudl not be over a billion PCs in teh hands of people around the world, many programmers and the web and technology in general were never stifled for Windows but grew exponentially because of it.
            I never understood the completely illogical stance that Windows held back technology. How? Apple, SUN, SCO, AT&T etc etc were perfectly capable of building any technology they wanted. But they all wanted in on Windows market, because they were jealous of it, and didn't have the savvy to have created such a marketplace.
            Windows took technology and put it in the hands of everyone and the world which made technology grow in ways it couldn't have otherwise.
          • Re: MS had web apps in the 1990s

            Web apps, without TCP/IP stack? Or, were those running on NetBIOS? :-)

            Or perhaps you meant 1999? :)

            The Internet happened despite Microsoft, not because of them. Learn history.
          • So, the internet happened with UNIX servers and Workstations only?

            Think what you will, everyone knows the list of characters all down the line here are MS haters, so what value is your response?
            You know the billion+ PCs added immensely to the programming and client side of the web, in fact it IS the client side of the web?
            Don't hate so much you are blinded by it.

            Even LINUX programmers used Windows a lot for a wide variety of things, especially in teh early days.
            Linux was no where near a stable usable OS by the masses until the last 5, maybe 7 years tops.
            Sorry, but without a client side, the web would have been stunted by a decade at least, while the remaining players tried to figure out how to exploit it.

            Google would not exist today w/o users using Google search on Windows - Just a fact.
            Apple woudl still be nothing today w/o itunes for Windows - Another fact.

            There was nobody that had the idea nor the way to do what Gates did, whether you like it or not, if that moment in history had not happened, the web would be years behind. How could it not be? There was Zero competition that could produce mass, affordable home computers.
            Remember, I'm saying if the OEMS didn't exist as well since they rose up due to MSFt.

            Sorry to break it to you, but Gates made your lives far more technologically advanced than they would have been otherwise. Fact.
          • Wrong

            Microsoft missed out on two major computing breakthroughs.. The Internet and the mobile. It's companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook that are driving innovation. MS is a stale company destined for business use only...