Google hits out at Office 365 the day before Microsoft's launch

The day before Microsoft's official unveiling (and general availability kick off) for Office 365, Google went on the offensive with a blog post entitled "365 reasons to consider Google Apps."
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

June 28 is the launch of Microsoft's Office 365, its Google Apps competitor and successor to Microsoft's own Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) hosted app suite.

The day before Microsoft's official unveiling (and general availability kick off) for Office 365, Google went on the offensive with a blog post entitled "365 reasons to consider Google Apps."

The Google Enterprise post actually lists four areas where Google officials are touting their edge over Office 365. The four include Google's focus with Apps on team communication; its multi-client support; its pricing simplicity; and its reliability.

Microsoft's recent BPOS serivce problems definitely have been an issue for its customers and partners. Microsoft's new multi-tenant-centric design of Office 365 may help make the new platform more resilient than BPOS. And it's hard to deny Office 365's pricing/packaging complexity. I realize that there can be a trade-off between choice and simplicity, and Microsoft has gone for choice with its myriad Office 365 E plans, K plans, inclusion of a local Office client option, etc., and not a "one-price/package fits all" deal. Google doesn't have anywhere near the number of pricing options with Apps (though it did recently tweak its own pricing, establishing new criteria for SMBs).

But a couple of Google's reasons to question Office 365 seemed kind of odd to me. Take collaboration. Microsoft is very team-focused with Office 365. One of the main legs of the Office 365 stool is SharePoint Online, the Microsoft-hosted version of its SharePoint communication and collaboration platform. (The other main components of Office 365 are a Microsoft-hosted version of Exchange, known as Exchange Online; and a hosted version of the Lync unified communications product, known as Lync Online.)

Update: A Google spokesperson clarified and said the "team vs. individual" comparison in the Google post was about collaborating on/inside a document. He said Google's point is Office Web Apps are still confusing to many consumers (I won't disagree there), and that Office Web Apps doesn't support collaboration from within a document -- something Google has tried to remedy with Google Cloud Connect.

The Redmondians also are not ignoring the Web with Office 365 -- in spite of the inclusion of Office 2010 Professional Plus as an optional add-on for those interested in purchasing the Office suite on a subscription basis. Office Web Apps support is part of Office 365. Office Web Apps includes Webified versions of Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint and works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome.

(Speaking of Chrome, Office Web Apps will "officially" support Chrome once Office 2010 Service Pack 1 is available. According to one blogger, Microsoft is planning to time its Office 2010 Service Pack 1 release with tomorrow's Office 365 launch, which makes a lot of sense.)

As it has done with its Azure platform, Microsoft has emphasized a hybrid approach with its cloud apps bundle. Users can run Exchange, SharePoint and Lync on servers in their own datacenters; run the Microsoft-hosted versions of these products as part of Office 365; and/or run a mix of these two sets of offerings. It's not a 100 percent cloud-based sales pitch, but many users I talk to prefer the hybrid approach to no software at all.

I've asked Microsoft officials if they have any comment on Google's post today, but have yet to hear back.

I'll be at the Office 365 launch in New York tomorrow and will be filing from there. If you have any questions you want me to ask about Microsoft's new hosted-app bundle, let me know and I'll try to get some answers.

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