Microsoft takes off the gloves with a Google Apps switchers campaign

Remember Apple's "switchers" campaign -- the one where they highlighted Windows users who dumped their Windows PCs for Macs? Microsoft is taking a page out of that book in reverse -- touting customers that are switching from Google Apps to Microsoft's Online hosted services.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

Remember Apple's "switchers" campaign -- the one where they highlighted Windows users who dumped their Windows PCs for Macs?

Microsoft is taking a page out of that book in reverse -- touting customers that are switching from Google Apps to Microsoft's Online hosted services.

Microsoft last month played up (in a fairly subtle way) Serena Software's decision to switch from Google Apps to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). I was surprised Microsoft didn't attempt to make more hay regarding Serena's decision, given Serena was a poster child for Google Apps. There has been some back and forth about exactly what Serena got in return from Microsoft for its decision to abandon Google Apps. The word is Microsoft cut them a deal -- not exactly giving them a freebie, but offering them some very attractive licensing terms. But so far, no one on either side is spelling out the exact terms of the Serena deal (beyond this "official" statement from Serena).

Around the same time, one of the biggest and most vocal reseller partners to stake a Google Apps claim a couple years ago, Capgemini, also switched its allegiances to BPOS.)

On June 21, Microsoft added two new Google-Apps-switcher case studies to its roster: China Navigation and Intero Real Estate.

China Navigation, a 300-employee company, is said to have abandoned Google Apps for BPOS "after issues with support and reliability." The 2,000-employee Intero Real Estate -- "which is located literally a few freeway exists away from the 'Googleplex' in California, according to a Microsoft blog post -- switched to Microsoft because it needed enterprise-class functionality, like Group Policy Management. In this case, according to the Softies, Google Apps was too simple.

From a quote on the Microsoft "Why Microsoft" blog:

"'It was one thing to migrate a small team of 15 franchise users to Google Apps, but I suspected that it was another thing entirely to move the company's more than 2,000 users,'" says Eric Rees, Director of IT for Intero Real Estate Services."

(The careful way this is worded makes me think Intero might not have dumped Google Apps entirely. I'll report back if that's the case.)

I have not yet spoken to either of these customers or to Google to get the other side of the story. But it's still interesting Microsoft has gone on the offensive with BPOS -- something it almost never does with Office or SharePoint. Looks like it's going to be a dog-eat-dog battle for cloud-hosted apps.

If/when I hear back from Google or these customers directly, I'll update this post with any related information.

Update (June 22): Here's Google's retort, via a corporate spokesperson:

"Large companies with thousands of users continue to switch from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps on a weekly basis.  Competition is good for everyone, and we also pride ourselves on making it easy for companies to move away from Google Apps if they want to.  It’s particularly easy for those that don’t have any employees on Apps to begin with."

Update 2: There's a bit more information from a source with familiarity with the contracts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. It sounds like -- as I kind of suspected (given how customer case study information from any company usually leaves out the interesting bits, like how much of a price break a customer managed to wrangle) that Microsoft may be omitting a few interesting details with these switcher profiles.

My source says that China Nav's issues with Google Apps had less to do with support and reliability than it did with the fact that the rest of the Swire Group (China Nav's parent company) is a Microsoft shop. The full Microsoft case study write up on China Nav cites a service level agreement guaranteeing 99.9 percent uptime for BPOS. I asked Google for its comparative uptime/reliability figure for Google Apps and a spokesperson told me it has been 99.99 percent for the last four quarters. Hmmm. Something's not adding up here...

Update 3: Microsoft responded on the seeming reliability discrepancy. Via a spokesperson:

“Microsoft Online Services offer the industry’s most rigorous SLAs (service level agreements).  We guarantee 99.9% uptime, or we give customers money back.  And, we count any service issue as downtime.  Microsoft Online Services have averaged 99.9% or better uptime since the start of this year.  While competitors cite similar SLAs, they only count outages that exceed 10 minutes, and thus, they can claim 100% uptime even when they experience frequent short outages in 9 minute increments. We know our customers expect guarantees they can trust, and that’s what we deliver.”

On the Intero front, the same source said that none of the Intero's franchise offices switched from Google Apps to BPOS; one franchise was evaluating it, but none had yet deployed it. Microsoft's full case study on Intero makes it seem that one franchise office dumped Google Apps for BPOS, and the entire rest of the company followed suite, going with Exchange Online.

This is why I never find case studies very useful... there's always another side to the story. Nonetheless, I still think it's newsworthy that Microsoft is going on the offensive with its cloud offerings, rather than sticking to defense, like it traditionally has with its on-premises products.

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