Microsoft to Google: It's our small business cloud

More than 160,000 small businesses tested Office Live during its beta program, according to Microsoft. How many small businesses can Google claim as Google Apps for Your Domain beta testers?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
More than 160,000 small businesses tested Office Live during its beta program, according to Microsoft. How many small businesses can Google claim as Google Apps for Your Domain beta testers?

Microsoft Office Live, “a set of Internet-based services tailored to the needs of small businesses,” officially comes out of beta in the United States November 15, Microsoft announced yesterday.


When Google announced Google Apps in August I projected: “Next Google Apps targets: Intuit QuickBooks, MS Money?”:

What’s missing? A Web-based accounting and finance software application! After all, if Google wants to compete head to head with Microsoft on software, why stop at Microsoft’s current core Office applications? A MS Money type hosted application would be a perfect Google fit to tout online banking, online bill pay…

MS Money primarily addresses the home and home office market, but Microsoft Small Business Accounting uses the standard Microsoft Office interface and offers a way of “Integrating business contact information with financial data”…

Microsoft is currently promoting a free “CD trial kit” with a trial version of Small Business Accounting 2006; the boxed product sells for $79.99 at Amazon.

Intuit, however, is already featuring a QuickBooks online accounting software edition, and targets the lucrative business and retail markets. QuickBooks online subscription starts at $19.95 monthly.

Just weeks after the announcement of Google Apps, Google indeed teamed up with Intuit, as I discuss in “Done Deal: Google partners with Intuit QuickBooks for $120 billion SME ad spend” and “Google QuickBooks 2007: Death of Yellow Pages, local newspapers?

I questioned Google-Intuit assertions:

Google and Intuit would like us to conclude from their numbers that upon the release of QuickBooks 2007 this Fall, Google will be on its quick and sure way to adding millions of small business customers to its AdWords conquests, displacing traditional small business advertising vehicles such as the Yellow Pages, local newspapers…

How enamored of Google’s integration in QuickBooks will Intuit’s customers be, however?

Will the new “Google icon” in QuickBooks be welcomed as a small business marketing savior, or shunned as a Google intrusion into their private business affairs?...

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Intuit CEO Steve Bennett will even have small business believe that Google wants to market them and obtain new customers for them, all free of charge…

Google’s touted “free” marketing of small businesses, however, can actually be likened to a “bait and switch” scheme.”

In “Google to Microsoft: Wolf in sheep’s clothing?” I put forth:

Google has a knack for launching (hoped for) category killer applications directly aimed at usurping existing market leaders’ positions with its reassuring “we’re not a competitive threat, we complement each other” mantra…

Microsoft does not welcome Google Apps for Your Domain as a new, collaborative neighbor in the “cloud.” Ray Ozzie was recruited by Microsoft to “Webify everything.”

What does the Microsoft small business cloud offer?

Office Live adManager Beta; integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007; enhanced Web design tools and templates; additional storage space; additional company branded e-mail accounts and calendars; and the ability to chat online via text, voice or mobile phone with employees, customers and colleagues using their own company domain name with Windows Live™ Messenger. In addition, Office Live Business Contact Manager, a tool to help small companies manage business relationships in an organized and effective way, will be available in subscription-based Office Live offerings.

Google, of course, believes the small business cloud is its for the taking. As Microsoft moved yesterday to consolidate its small business market in the cloud, Google reasserted its small business (and other) intentions in announcing the acquisition of application wiki company JotSpot, as I discuss in “Is Google’s ‘free’ cloud an illusion?

What attracted JotSpot to Google? Joe Kraus, JotSpot co-founder and CEO:

As we built the business over the past three years Google consistently attracted our attention. We watched them acquire Writely, and launch Google Groups, Google Spreadsheets and Google Apps for Your Domain. It was pretty apparent that Google shared our vision for how groups of people can create, manage and share information online.

Microsoft believes its small business vision is a more powerful one, the “customizable by Microsoft partners” vision:

Recognizing the important role of partners in addressing the specific needs of small businesses, Office Live, built on Windows® SharePoint® Services 3.0, provides an open platform on which developers can build customized or industry-specific software applications and deliver services for their customers. Three partners participated in the pilot program and have already developed valuable small-business solutions on the Office Live platform: Qdabra Software, which streamlines business processes for small companies and teams to reduce IT complexity and cost; NPower Network, which provides the nonprofit community with a tool to manage their most important assets: their constituents and contributions; and Dinerware Inc., which delivers best-of-breed restaurant touch-screen systems built on Microsoft technologies. In addition, 75 partners worldwide are participating in the Early Adopter Program, building a wide variety of solutions to help meet the unique needs of small businesses. On Nov. 15 Microsoft will publish a developers guide and other tools to support the partners in developing solutions on the Office Live platform.”

Two weeks can be an eternity in the Microsoft vs. Google battle for the cloud, however.

Google has plenty of time to preempt Microsoft with yet another acquisition announcement aimed at beefing up its “Google Office.”

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