Microsoft Office 2010 launches from beta May 12 with its sights set squarely on Google Apps, Google's Web-based collaboration suite.
True to Microsoft's software-plus-services practice, Office 2010 includes all of the on-premises Office tools users have been using for the last 15-plus years, plus Web-based editions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint Microsoft users may access through their Web browser.
It is, bar none, a blatant shot across the bow of Google, which launched a pre-emptive strike May 11 with in a blog post straight from the Googleplex.
The simply titled "Upgrade Here" is a frank and unabashed offer to customers. Google Enterprise Product Management Director Matthew Glotzbach noted:
"If you're considering upgrading Office with Office, we'd encourage you to consider an alternative: upgrading Office with Google Docs. If you choose this path, upgrade means what it's supposed to mean: effortless, affordable, and delivering a remarkable increase in employee productivity. This is a refreshing alternative to the expensive and laborious upgrades to which IT professionals have become accustomed."
Ouch, ouch and ouch. All body blows to the Microsoft Monster that is Office, which has racked up some 500 million-plus business seats in the last 15 years and made serious coin charging users licensing and maintenance fees.
Glotzbach goes on to tout Google Docs, the Office rival suite of cloud-based documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Acknowledging that most users have Office 2003 or 2007, Glotzbach notes that Google Docs "makes Office 2003 and 2007 better."
When Google fully integrates its acquisition of DocVerse, users will be able to essentially enable Office 2003 and 2007 documents, spreadsheets and presentations for the cloud.
Google offers this cost comparison chart, intended as the final dagger to aid users' decision making:
As you can see, Office Professional 2010 costs $499 for a perpetual license, compared with $50 per user per year for Google Apps Premier Edition. Moreover, Office customers have to pay more for SharePoint 2010, CALs and servers and such. Crazy.
I've always wondered why any startup or even big company crimped for cash would ever go with Office in the last three years. Financially, it just doesn't make sense. Maybe folks have a cloud hang-up, but I digress.
Of course, there are two sides to every story, and that is just as true for the collaboration software market. Industry analysts appreciate Google Apps, but they acknowledge Microsoft products as the lords of the collaboration domain.
Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish noted May 11 that 81 percent of enterprises are running Office 2007, with 78 percent supporting SharePoint, compared with only 4 percent using Google Apps. Seriously, see the chart:
That's a huge lead and quite possibly insurmountable if even a portion of those users slide over to Office 2010 Web apps instead of Google Apps.
Noting that Google Apps and other Office and SharePoint alternatives lack the necessary maturity for the bulk of today's enterprises, McLeish puts the nail in the Google Apps coffin here:
"Microsoft's dominance in the enterprise productivity and collaboration space will grow stronger with 2010, given the level of commitment to the platform expressed by firms that Forrester surveyed. Extending integration between Office and SharePoint will create further lock-in and drive an expanding ecosystem of Microsoft partners seeking to add value and ride the wave."
Funny though, these reports have been coming out of Forrester, IDC and Gartner forever and Google executives remain unbowed. Read this fun CNET interview with Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard.
The piece has the same tenor from comments I gleaned from Jonathan Rochelle, product manager for Google Docs and Sites, when we met in person last week. Afraid of Office 2010 he is not.
Rochelle believes Microsoft is offering a mix of on-premises and online programs that will confuse the market:
"I really, truly believe that the complexity of what you need from that set of tools to get what we offer today by just basically signing in is going to be difficult for consumers and businesses. That talks to the difference [between Google Apps and Office 2010]. The difference between our platforms is that we offer simplicity."
Google Apps beats Office 2010 on cost and simplicity, particularly because it has zero reliance on on-premises architecture, is my takeaway from Girouard and Rochelle.
Of course, it's hard not to get excited about Google Apps when you read accounts from high-tech legends such as Sun Microsystems co-founder (and, it should be noted, Google investor) Andy Bechtolsheim, who wrote this glowing blog post.
Still, one can't help but look at Forrester's numbers. They say numbers don't lie and while the numbers could change, the question is whether or not they will given that Microsoft has joined Google in the cloud.