But lest he get too bullish, Schadler said he expects stronger mobile support for Gmail, as well as the long-awaited offline Gmail and Google calendar support.
Once a non-factor in the SAAS space, Microsoft entered the cloud messaging space in 2008 with Exchange Online Standard, which at an average cost of $8.66 per user, per month is double Google's rate. Costs escalate to $20.32 per person, per month once staffing, message archiving and client software is factored in.
Google Apps, anyway one looks at it, appear cheaper, which could prove attractive for cost-constrained companies in 2009.
Meanwhile, of the 53 firms Forrester surveyed, 36 are considering a change in their e-mail services, with seven planning to put their e-mail data in the servers of a cloud-based provider, such as Google, Microsoft, Cisco or Yahoo.
However, in a validation of Microsoft's software-plus-services model, 20 of those companies said a hybrid model looks attractive, keeping their mailbox servers in their corporate data center but running inbound e-mail spam and virus filtering as a cloud-based service to pare e-mail volume. Why? Primarily, lower costs, as one financial services firm told Schadler:
If that model holds up across the industry in the coming years, that leaves plenty of room room for Google and Microsoft at the table for SAAS e-mail. Moreover, Schadler found that price transparency will drive e-mail costs down because vendors will continually vie to provide cost advantages to separate from the pack.
Other benefits of floating into the cloud include: the ability to rapidly provision new users; allocate IT professionals to more business-centric projects rather than tending to e-mail servers; no upgrade hassles for IT; and the cloud lets CFOs shift the financial burden from upfront capital expense to ongoing operating expense, a boon during the recession.