Like IBM in a former era, it goes without saying that Microsoft is the standard for many, many business when it comes to email and office “productivity” software (ie. Office).
But this week marked a somewhat significant moment with Microsoft launching a new version of one of the most famous software brands in the world, and finding itself competing for attention.
Google this week posted an entry on its blog questioning people’s reasons for choosing the new Office 365, which promises to give small businesses their own versions of Exchange, Sharepoint and Web versions of Office, all hosted online.
Cloud software is set to become the new software battleground, promising to give tiny businesses their own server for email and calendars, all at a fraction of the price, without needing a server their own building.
In the Google blog post, the search giant took a couple of digs at the arrival of a cloud-version of Microsoft's Office suite, describing Office 365 as being designed for desktop computing.
The post also warned against users investing “ten years in the past” and criticised Office 365 as being “optimized” for Windows computers (although, as Microsoft points out, it promises that the new cloud version of Office can be accessed on iPhone, Android, Mac and Blackberry devices, as well as non Microsoft browsers).
Microsoft's view of Office 365: Click to enlarge
The post also paints Office 365’s licensing system as complex, with Google posting a chart comparing prices with its own cloud office platform, Google Apps.
Microsoft’s big pitch is that Office 365 costs each user the “price of a sandwich” - $7.90 per user per month is the ongoing cost for the cheapest version.
While Google is focusing on the simplicity of licensing and fact that Google Apps doesn’t “lock you in”, at this week's Office 365 media event discussion kept returning to the theme of how familiar many people already are with Outlook. Microsoft is banking on the fact many people will be more comfortable and familiar with the Office suite.
Still, it’s clear that when it comes to the brave new world of an office in the cloud, it no longer goes without saying that Microsoft is the only choice. Big organisations including Jetstar are reportedly putting some users onto Google Apps, and Optus is waving the Google banner with a Google Apps product for small business
Also see our video: Should your small business be in the cloud?
Do you run your own server? Would you consider switching to a cloud service and why, or why not? Add your comment below.