Microsoft Office has been the de facto standard for office productivity software for…well, pretty much since it was first introduced nearly a quarter century ago. Office 365 and Office 2016 are keeping the momentum rolling in Microsoft’s favor, but Google would like to change that. Google is working with its partners to provide businesses engaged in volume-licensing agreements with Microsoft enough incentive to entice them to make a switch.
Google and its partners are facing increasing competition from the success of Office 365 and consistently encounter the same problem. Basically, most of the potential customers that would consider making a switch to Google Apps are already paying Microsoft or some other provider as part of a long-term volume licensing agreement. They’re unwilling to make a switch until the contract with comes up for renewal, and by that time they may change their minds or forget about Google.
Rich Rao, head of global sales for Google Apps for Work announced the initiative in a blog post titled Going Google just got easier. “In fact, we’re so confident that Docs has all the features you need, without the ones you don’t, that we’re making it even easier to give it a try. If you’re worried about switching to Docs because you still have an enterprise agreement (EA) with another provider, we’ll cover the fees of Google Apps until your contract runs out. We’ll even chip in on some of the deployment costs and set you up for success with one of our Google for Work Partners.”
The new strategy will let Microsoft (or other enterprise productivity solution) customers use the enterprise edition of Google Apps for free for the duration of their existing contract in exchange for a one-year commitment to pay for Google Apps services after the expiration. Google will also cover up to $25 per user to help companies migrate services and data over to Google Apps.
Google launched its Web-based challenger to Microsoft Office a little less than 10 years ago. The core applications—Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides—parallel the three primary tools in Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Combined with tools like Gmail for email and Google Drive for cloud data storage, among other things, Google offers a comprehensive suite of productivity tools and services to rival Microsoft Office.
According to a recent report from Bit glass, Google Apps climbed from 16.3 percent to 22.8 percent of the cloud email and productivity market. That growth was overshadowed, however, by the fact that Office 365 spiked more than 300 percent from 7.7 percent to 25.2 percent to pass Google up.
It bears mentioning, though, that Office 365 does not mean running Office applications in the cloud. Office 365 includes additional features and services like Exchange Online and OneDrive, but the Microsoft Office suite itself is the exact same Microsoft Office suite if you just buy Office Professional 2016 without the Office 365 subscription. You install Microsoft Office on your Windows or Mac PC and the applications work whether you’re offline or connected to the Internet. Google Apps, on the other hand, are Web-based tools with limited offline functionality.
Google Apps are solid products and they’re more than capable of performing the functions they’re designed for. They’re not Microsoft Office, though. Users who are familiar with Microsoft Office will face a bit of a learning curve to adapt to Google conventions and businesses may face fidelity and compatibility issues when dealing with partners and customers who still use Microsoft Office.
To its credit, Microsoft has made significant progress in improving Office and expanding the reach of the productivity suite across platforms and devices. Just a few short years ago Microsoft Office was essentially restricted to Windows PCs, but now the tools that make up Office are virtually ubiquitous across Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. The strategy of making most of the functionality of the Office apps available for free helps to keep users loyal regardless of platform and ensures that businesses are more likely to continue relying on Microsoft Office.
Google claims customers can save up to 70 percent by switching to Google Apps. The projected savings, however, doesn’t take into account that it might cost more than $25 per user to migrate from the existing platform or the impact to productivity as users get comfortable with the new tools. The offer is currently open to companies in the United States and Canada.