Microsoft swipes at Google Apps

Redmond responds to Google's alliance with Capgemini by suggesting that Google Apps is not appropriate for many businesses.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Microsoft has launched an attack on Google in which it seeks to dissuade businesses from downloading Google Apps.

The attack came in a statement on Monday, the same day Google signed a deal with Capgemini to promote its office-productivity software among businesses.

Capgemini, a global consulting firm, is to offer desktop support and installation services to large corporations running Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), the premium version of Google's Web-based package. Google Apps includes a word processor, calendar and mail functions, and so is a direct rival to Microsoft Office.

In its statement, Microsoft laid out 10 questions it wanted users considering Google Apps to ask themselves.

"We believe competition is good for customers and the industry. That said, customers tell us that our solutions deliver the ease of use, reliability and security that enterprises need," the statement began. It then asked questions such as: "Google's apps only work if an enterprise has no power users, employees are always online, enterprises haven't built custom Office apps--doesn't this equal a very small percentage of global information workers today?"

Another one read: "Google touts having enterprise-level customers but how many 'users' of their applications truly exist within the enterprise?" A further one questioned Google's commitment to Google Apps, asking: "Their enterprise focus and now apps exist on the very fringe, and in combination with other fringe services only account for 1 percent of the company's revenue. What happens if Google executes poorly? Do they shut (them) down given it will (affect) them in a minimal and short-term way? Should customers trust that this won't happen?"

Microsoft's statement poured scorn on Google's "perpetual beta" ethos, which sees its software upgraded on a relatively continual basis, rather than upgrades appearing in official releases. "With Google Apps in perpetual beta and Google controlling when, and if, they roll out specific features and functionality, customers have minimal, if any, control over the timing of product rollouts and features."

And the statement asked: "Google has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a 'known only to Google' schedule--this flies in the face of what enterprises want and need in their technology partners--what is Google doing that indicates they are in lock step with customer needs?"

Ovum analyst David Bradshaw told ZDNet Asia's sister site ZDNet UK that the missive showed "Microsoft is paying (Google) the second most sincere form of compliment, in treating them as a serious rival."

Bradshaw described Microsoft's allegations that Google released incomplete products with no clear update schedule as being "at best, cheeky".

He suggested that the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model of updates had been proved successful by Salesforce.com. "Clearly they are taking advantage of the platform to change things when they need to, when it's ready," said Bradshaw. "They don't have to wait until the end of the year or whenever--all that has changed. In a sense, SaaS enables continual improvement."

Bradshaw added that, as Microsoft itself was moving into the hosted-service market with Office Live Meeting and its upcoming customer relationship management play, there might be "people in Microsoft who will strongly object to" the viewpoints in the statement.

Google refused to comment on the statement.

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