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Microsoft Office vs Google Apps – differing strategies

A useful summary from Tim Anderson of the differing strategies of Microsoft and Google in the email/document space. If I knew the winner, I’d place my bet in the stock market… but the collaborative power of Google Apps and the functional maturity of MS Office mean that both are compelling and neither is likely to beat out the other for some years.

Microsoft is pursuing its “software plus services” strategy, which means desktop applications still play an important role. The email is Exchange-based, so you can use other email clients, but only Outlook on Windows will deliver full features. Document collaboration is based primarily on cloud storage rather then editing, though when Office Web Apps appear next year users will have some lightweight editing tools.

Google on the other hand is primarily web based, with desktop support as an add-on. Google has the lead when it comes to online document editing, since it has had Google Docs for some time, whereas Office Web Apps are still in beta. Google has no bias towards Windows and Office. With Google, a document’s primary existence is in the cloud, although you can export and import with possible loss of data or formatting.

Something else I noticed is that Google has big plans for integration with mobile devices, whereas Microsoft seems mainly concerned with Exchange synchronisation.

Microsoft’s pitch is that if you live in Windows anyway, with Exchange and SharePoint on the server, and Windows and Office on the client, then its cloud service integrates nicely. Google on the other hand is more revolutionary, not caring about what you run as long as you can connect to its services.

Although the software plus services idea has attractions, it sounds more like a transitional strategy than one for the long term. Over time, as the web platform gets more powerful, and as rich internet applications take over from pure desktop applications, the services part will grow absolutely dominant.