Cloud Computing: Office 365 and Google Apps Vie to Control Messaging in the Cloud
Software Plus Services
Microsoft may have deprecated this motto in favor of more cloud-centric terms, but "Software Plus Services" is the slogan that best sums up Microsoft's cloud applications approach. Every component that comprises Office 365 is available in both Microsoft-hosted and on-premises editions, and the organizations poised to extract the most value from Office 365 will be running Microsoft's full stack of thick-client applications.
Nothing but the Web
For Google's part, it's the marketing slogan for the company's Chromebook devices, "Nothing but the Web," that best characterizes Google's Apps offerings. The Web giant's cloud resides solely in Google data centers, and while Google offers a handful of Windows client integration points, Google Apps tend to rely on a Web browser and live Internet connection.
Google Sync for Outlook
The primary interface for Google's GMail is Web-based, but the company makes available a Sync tool that works well with Outlook.
Outlook Web Access
Microsoft's Web-based Exchange client, Outlook Web Access, recreates the Outlook experience on multiple browsers and platforms.
Adapting to Old Habits
For users that prefer traditional message views and folder structures, Google has, in the past year, added options for unbundling the message view and for enabling nested labels to recreate the folders experience.
Office Apps Still Lag
At this point, neither set of online productivity tools is mature enough to fully replace fat client word processors, spreadsheets or presentation applications due to their feature limitations and lack of offline support.
Activesync as Mobile Lingua Franca
The user-access experience on mobile devices is similar for both Office 365 and Google Apps, as both services tap Microsoft's Activesync protocol for syncing mail, calendar items and contacts on iOS and Android devices.