Google renames, bulks up Google Apps, following Microsoft's Office 365 rebranding

As of November 18, Google Apps -- the primary competitor of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and Office 365 successor -- has gone from being a bundle of eight apps to one with 60. Sort of....
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As of November 18, Google Apps -- the primary competitor of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) and Office 365 successor -- has gone from being a bundle of eight apps to one with 60. Sort of....

As you might have guessed, the change is more about naming than anything else. As Microsoft did in October with its Office 365 launch, Google is getting its branding house in order. Google is simplifying the names of the existing Google Apps SKUs.

As of today, there are four Google Apps SKUs:

  • Google Apps, the entry-level free offering for up to 50 users
  • Google Apps for Business for $50 per user per year
  • Google Apps for Government for local, state and federal agencies
  • Google Apps for Education for schools and nonprofits

Microsoft recently changed the branding of its set of Microsoft-hosted applications with the launch of Office 365. Microsoft has not released a final SKU list for Office 365 (due to start rolling out early next year). But I'm thinking it will look something like this:

  • Office 365 Basic (Deskless Worker) for $24 per year
  • Office 365 Standard for $324 per year (including a Office Professional Plus to install locally)
  • Office 365 Dedicated
  • Office 365 Federal
  • Office 365 for Education (the rebranded Live @edu)
  • Office 365 Small Business (the rebranded Office Live Small Business) for $72 per year
  • Office 365 plus CRM Online

(Microsoft has said it also will continue to offer standalone versions of SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online.)

For more on Office 365, check out my recent "Office 365 Essentials" webcast

Google also is doing something that Microsoft -- at least so far -- is not. It is moving a number of its existing services, like iGoogle, Google Alerts, Google Reader and Picasa under the Google Apps brand. (That's how Google can say it now has 60 apps in the Google Apps family.) These are all add-on, optional applications that can be "turned on" or off by employee or group, according to Google officials.

Google officials said the idea behind the move is to allow business users to take advantage of apps and services normally construed as consumer. Example: Employees in a Google Apps customer's art department could turn on Picasa to manage photos.

Microsoft had bad experiences with renaming many products under the .Net brand, and again, with overdoing it with the "Windows Live" name. In both cases, Microsoft pulled back and rethought its over-zealous branding strategy.

One possible exception may be Dynamics CRM 2011, which Microsoft has said will be an add-on to Office 365. (Exactly how it will be added and priced is still not public information). Microsoft always could opt to make things like Windows Live Messenger or its soon-to-be-released Kinect Video plug-in (for connecting its Kinect sensor to its Lync unified communications platform) part of the Office 365 family. I'm doubtful the Softies will go that route, but never say never, I guess...

In other Google vs. Microsoft news, I've seen some competitive confusion regarding Google's just-announced Docs to Go capability. Microsoft offers some of this functionality already with Office Web Apps. (Office Web Apps lets users on certain mobile phones -- and other platforms -- view and edit their Webified Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps.) Office Web Apps works with selected browsers on  Windows Phones, iPhone, Blackberries and some Nokia phones.

Update: To be fair, Office Web Apps access still is fairly limited on most mobile phones. On Windows Phone 7, you can view and do some editing. On the other phones, you can view only.

"The editing experience on Windows Phone 7 works for Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) received via email, saved on your phone, or accessed via SharePoint, as well as OneNote via SkyDrive," said a spokesperson I asked for clarification. On other supported phones, documents may be viewed by not edited, the spokesperson said, but there are some third-party tools that enable both viewing and editing of Office docs on other mobile platforms.

Google Docs to Go enables viewing and editing on Android with Froyo (version 2.2) and on iOS devices (version 3.0+) including the iPad.

Do you think Microsoft should make other optional add-ons part of Office 365, as Google is doing with Google Apps? Or is this a cosmetic change that may result in more confusion than choice, in your view?

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