Business Apps: The Next Battleground for Microsoft & Google?


It’s taken years and years of concerted effort, but Google finally looks to be making some significant inroads into Microsoft’s business territory.

Google’s business apps offers a viable alternative to Microsoft’s suite of tools, with applications for creating documents and spreadsheets, collaboration and communications just some of the essential tools available. Many of these apps work in a similar fashion to the tools available with Microsoft Office, but with one crucial difference – they’re all cloud based, meaning that users don’t have to download any of the software onto their computers.

Google has been pushing the idea of cloud-based business tools for six years now, but until recently it was thought that the idea only really appealed to smaller businesses.

But times have changed, says Google, and a growing number of larger enterprises are also beginning to embrace the idea.

According to an article in The New York Times, Google pulled off some big victories in the last year, securing high profile clients such as Hoffman-La Roche, a Swiss drugs maker whose 170,000+ employees now use Google Apps for Business exclusively. This and other success over the last 12 months has led Google to set its sights on even more ambitious goals, and the company now believes that it can steal as many as 90% of all Microsoft’s business users in the next two to three years.

“Our goal is to get to the 90 percent of users who don’t need to have the most advanced features of Office,” said Google’s Amit Singh in a recent interview with All Things D.

That might sound like a pretty outlandish statement to make, but according to Singh, the facts speak for themselves:

“We know the gaps between our features and theirs. We’re improving them week by week. We’re going to get to the 90 percent,” insisted Singh. “This was the year where we broke the barrier and got large-scale customer adoption.”

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office: A Price War, Or Something More?

According to the NYT article, the biggest thing going for Google Apps is its pricing. Although the company recently angered many with its decision to do away with the free, basic version of its Business Apps, Google’s suite of tools is still much cheaper than that of its main rival. At just $50 per year, per person, their package of tools is less than half the price of Microsoft’s. The price for Office depends on the exact package the user buys, but starts at $72 and goes up to $240 per year, per person, for the full featured version.

Singh told All Things D that cost was definitely one factor behind businesses decision to dump Microsoft, but insists that their product also has a lot to offer users besides just savings, with one key advantage being the level of collaboration that Google Docs affords.

In future, Google plans to refine its product even further in order to increase its compatibility:

“In Q3, if you import from Excel into Sheets, you won’t be able to tell the difference in Sheets,” claims Singh. “The next thing is the import from PowerPoint to Slides. That’s where QuickOffice is going to help us a lot.”

The 90% claim made by Singh might seem a little on the optimistic side, especially when one considers that many businesses will still be having doubts over the reliability of cloud-based apps.

Even so, the evidence does seem to suggest that Microsoft has every reason to be worried. Given that the majority of its revenue comes from its business division, the company will no doubt be forced to push its own suite of cloud-based tools, Sky Drive, in order to meet this new threat. Should be an interesting 12 months ahead.