Google Face-Palms Microsoft On Support Claims

On Monday, Barbara Gordon, Microsoft corporate vice president of customer service and support, called out Google for not prominently displaying customer support information to Google Docs customers. "When was the last time you called Google for help recovering a lost Google Doc? Were you even able to find a number? My guess is, no," Gordon said in a Monday blog post.

Google fired back Thursday, noting that its support for paying Google Docs customers includes 24/7 phone support and highlighting the advantages of storing data in the cloud.

"Generally, Google Docs users don't need help recovering 'lost' documents, as their documents are backed up in the multiple data centers in the cloud. This is safer and more secure than storing data on a single computer," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to CRN.

In attacking Google, Gordon cited Microsoft's long history of supporting customers by phone and e-mail as well as through online community sites. She also mentioned Microsoft's enterprise support and services offerings, although she didn't explicitly mention the fact that Microsoft channel partners deliver many of these services.

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This didn't escape the notice of Google, which also relies on partners for Google Docs related services. "Our partners play a key role in offering higher touch assistance, like change management support and end user training, for those who need it," the Google spokesperson said.

Allen Falcon, CEO of Horizon Info Services, a Westborough, Mass.-based Google Apps reseller, thinks Microsoft is correct about Google's limited support and reliance on the channel, but says he hasn't run into support problems with Google Apps.

"I would argue that Google's forums meet customers' needs and the face time our customers get from us is at least comparable to the support companies get from Microsoft channel partners," said Falcon. "And while Google does not have the mega-sized direct support service, how many companies are actually happy paying for -- and waiting for -- direct Microsoft support?"

Microsoft's current mantra is that it's "all-in" with cloud computing, and so it was odd to hear Gordon raise the potential negative impacts of cloud outages when making her case that Office 2010 is a better option for customers. "After all, if you have a book report due at 8 a.m. the next day, you can’t afford to wait for your online applications to be available," Gordon said in the blog post.

As Microsoft and Google fight an increasingly pitched battle in the cloud productivity software space, they're both going to have to assuage users' fears over downtime. In this case, though, Microsoft's need to keep customers interested in its on-premise Office business is readily apparent.

At this point, Microsoft has clear advantages since its Office software is so ubiquitous. The learning curve for Google Apps, and the costs of migrating, will probably keep Microsoft in the driver's seat in this battle for the foreseeable future. Google right now is more of a theoretical threat, but Microsoft, like all companies in the IT industry, is accustomed to looking several years down the road.

The Google threat is real, and Microsoft wants desperately to slay this baby dragon before it gets too big to handle. Right now, both companies are feverishly scrutinizing the other's business with a microscope in search of deficiencies to highlight. Get the popcorn ready.