Microsoft Ups Ante In BPOS-Google Apps Battle

Microsoft often says companies that put Google Apps through its paces often find out that it's "more pony than horse" due to reliability and security concerns, hidden operational costs, and issues with document fidelity. Lately, Microsoft has been citing case studies of Google Apps customers that have switched over to BPOS.

China Navigation, a shipping management firm with 300 employees with offices throughout Asia, recently ditched Google Apps in favor of BPOS after experiencing "issues with support and reliability," Andrew Kisslo, a senior product manager for Office, said in a Monday blog post.

Intero Real Estate, a 2,000-employee firm based in Silicon Valley, recently deployed Google Apps for a subset of 15 franchise users and was turned off by its lack of enterprise features like group management, according to Kisslo. However, according to one source familiar with the matter, Intero was never actually a Google Apps customer, but an Exchange shop that had been testing the waters on Google Apps.

Microsoft is also taking aim at Google Apps' reliability, noting that Google has experienced 450 minutes of downtime across its Google Apps services in last 60 days. But a Google spokesperson told CRN Tuesday that Google Apps has three-nines of uptime for the past several quarters, while Gmail has had four-nines.

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BPOS hasn't been immune to outages, either: In late January, Microsoft experienced a BPOS outage that affected users in North America for the better part of a week, and for which it issued service credits to customers.

Competing vendors trading barbs goes back to ancient times, but it's clear in this case that Microsoft has a lot more to lose in the Google Apps-BPOS battle than Google does. Google Apps' isn't Google's primary business, but Office is one of the pillars on which the Microsoft empire was built.

For now, Google Apps presents mostly a theoretical threat to Microsoft's business. Google can afford to take its time and look for big Google Apps contracts like the one its signed with the City of Los Angeles last year, which was as much of a marketing coup as it was a business deal.

The fact that Microsoft is exploring every possible avenue to depict Google as ineffectual and weak shows it's plenty worried about the threat Google poses down the road, according to solution providers.

"Microsoft's angle has always been different than Google. Google highlights the capabilities of their products, while Microsoft focus on doing product comparisons," said Tony Safoian, president and CEO of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based solution provider.

SADA Systems partners with both Google and Microsoft, and Safoian says he hasn't been seeing any noticeable shift from Google Apps to BPOS within his customer base. He suspects that the companies in Microsoft's case studies may have migrated to Google Apps without fully understanding its capabilities.

"Whether it's Google Apps or BPOS, it's important for customers to do a thorough analysis, talk to partners, and understand what they're getting into before they migrate," said Safoian.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has also reportedly been raising the threat of Google Apps to get channel partners on board with BPOS. One partner, in a recent conversation with a Microsoft market rep, expressed his concern that hosted Exchange would net him 60 percent of the upfront revenue of an on-premise Exchange deployment over the next five years.

"The best argument that this person could make to address this fact was that I should be afraid of Google taking my margin and customers away from me. So I’m supposed to consider it inevitable and give the money to Microsoft instead?" said the source, who requested anonymity.