Microsoft Office or Google Apps?

    September 13, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Google’s recent deal with IT outsourcer Capgemini makes Google Apps available through the consultant to its client companies. What are those companies really getting for their $50 annual license?

Microsoft Office or Google Apps?
Microsoft Office or Google Apps?

(Editor’s note: Google Apps may have reached a point where companies should give it some consideration in given circumstances. Check out our article, and the accompanying interview with veteran Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg, who shares his views of the Microsoft side of the debate.)

Whether your company uses Microsoft Office or not, and plenty do, Google would like you to consider ‘complementing’ that desktop productivity suite with its software as a service options from Google Apps. Capgemini’s deal with Google could lead some clients with large numbers of entry level staffers to switch them to Google Apps.

It looks like a simple question of mathematics at a high level overview. Why put a copy of Office, with all of its sophisticated features, on the desktops of dozens of people who only need basic functionality. Why support patches and updates for Office with in-house staff when Google will do all of that under the hood work for you?

» Watch the video with Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg «

Here’s a brief rundown of what Google Apps offers to those who embrace it: word processing, spreadsheets, email (with 10GB storage), calendar, IM/voice client, web page creation, all available from a corporate-branded, centrally managed start page.

All a worker would need besides the PC and Internet connection would be a headset, for use with Google Talk. That application may not receive much use on the voice side, as we think Google Apps would be destined for "cube farm" setups like call centers.

Google’s document and spreadsheet handling can convert various file formats for viewing. A higher-level staffer distributing an Excel spreadsheet or Word document to the masses would not have to worry about others being able to read it.

If they publish it through Google Docs & Spreadsheets, the document in question can be managed from one place in terms of access and availability.

Capgemini said in its statement about the deal that the benefits of such a software as a service (SaaS) offering goes beyond just tools:

SaaS solutions, such as Google Apps Premier Edition, provide a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy alternative to installed, licensed desktop software; they are delivered over the Internet via a Web browser and do not require companies to install or maintain software locally, or to tap into internal IT resources.

Email management, especially when it comes to the volumes of spam hitting inboxes, creates nonstop issues for system administrators. Instead of bogging down networks and people with the task of maintaining email, Google does the heavy lifting.

Doing SaaS presents a concern, highlighted by Microsoft in its rebuttal. It’s the same concern that led firms to abandon client-server apps in favor of desktop software – the issue of the application server, or a network, going down while people are trying to work with Google Apps.

Outages are not unheard of, even at Google. They aren’t unheard of on the PC side, either. Is the chance of a network or Google outage any greater than that of a PC problem? Watch the video.

There is another aspect to Google Apps that hasn’t received much attention. It could be a factor that impresses the IT department from a security standpoint. Google Apps function with the Firefox browser just as well as they do with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

If Google Apps does fill a need for companies that can’t or won’t provide Office for their lower-level staff, it makes sense to have Firefox as a required browser to accompany Google Apps. These workers would avoid the security issues that sometimes crop up when an IE-centric zero-day exploit appears.

Judging by Capgemini’s talk, offering Google Apps is a small step into empowering a lot of people who would not have such a productivity resource made available to them. Not every company is on a scale where they need a Capgemini to come in and make this happen.

But in this age, all a company needs is an Internet connection, and some time to sign up for and enable Google Apps. It’s an option firms should at least consider before writing that check for Office licenses.

(Requests for comment from Microsoft and Google had not been responded to by the time of this writing.)

» Watch the video with Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg