Google Cloud VARs Unfazed By Microsoft Office 365

Google Apps cloud resellers aren't scared of Microsoft Office 365. If anything, they're excited about it.

Microsoft last week officially launched Microsoft Office 365, its cloud computing suite that bundles Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online, and that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said is "where Office meets the cloud." Microsoft's largest competitor for Office 365 is Google's cloud suite, Google Apps.

"I don't think any of us are nervous," said Michael Cohn, co-founder and vice president of marketing for Atlanta-based Google reseller Cloud Sherpas. "We're actually glad it's finally here."

According to Cohn, the launch of Office 365 validates what Google has been doing in the cloud for years with Google Apps. Cohn added that "competition is what makes markets."

Sponsored post

In less than two years since launching its Google Apps Reseller Program, Google has amassed a cadre of more than 3,000 Google Apps resellers that bring their clients into the cloud. Microsoft is hopeful that the launch of Office 365 will displace Google Apps in some companies. But Google Apps resellers see it having the opposite result.

Cohn said since Ballmer and Co. unveiled Microsoft Office 365 last week, the number of calls Cloud Sherpas has received regarding Google Apps have increased.

Same goes for Los Angeles-based Google reseller ViWo Inc. Crisantos Hajibrahim, head of business development for ViWo, said ViWo's calls have increased as well. Even with Office 365 hitting the market, there will still be a sect of customers that say "I'm tired of Microsoft. I love Google," Hajibrahim said, adding "We have not lost one customer to Microsoft."

Tom Cooper, principal and founder of Salvair, a Columbus, Ohio-based Google reseller, said it's no surprise that Microsoft joined the growing cloud market with Office 365, looking to deepen its cloud computing offerings and better compete with Google.

"Microsoft jumping into the fold has always been a given," Cooper said. "You're going to see people jump on the early bandwagon."

But Cooper said looking under the covers, Office 365 lacks many of the attributes that make Google Apps a cloud solution. Cooper said Office 365 will be version-based and Google Apps just has a single release, meaning users have to pay more for more features with Microsoft Office 365 and a single price gets users all of Google Apps functionality. Microsoft Office 365 also lacks the true multi-tenancy that Google Apps possesses.

Cloud Sherpas' Cohn agreed. He said Microsoft is still attempting to tie users to the desktop and has not make the software work universally across devices, meaning Microsoft Office 365 won't yet work on tablets and certain mobile devices, while Google Apps offers universal access across mobile and desktop browsers.

"Microsoft is still trying to tether people to their desktop software," Cohn said. "It's not a true cloud solution. It's definitely a hybrid."

NEXT: Google Resellers Question Office 365 Pricing

Meanwhile, Google has established a track record of reliability with Apps, promising no scheduled downtime and nearly 100 percent uptime. Microsoft, Cohn said, already has a sketchy track record in the cloud with Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), Microsoft Office 365's predecessor that has recently been plagued with cloud outages.

During the Office 365 launch, Ballmer, however, said the cloud service will be highly reliable. "Our service level agreement policies with Office 365 are absolutely the best in the industry," he said.

Microsoft Office 365 also has pricing issues and customers "can't figure out what this thing will cost," Cohn said.

Google Apps for Business offers two pricing tiers: A plan that runs $5 per-user per-month where users can be added and removed on the fly; and a $50 per-user per-year plan. Meanwhile, Microsoft has various options available for Microsoft Office 365 available: One for SMBs of less than 25 employees that runs $6 per user per month; and tiered options for the enterprise that range from $2 to $27 per user per month depending on the features. Office 365 also requires an upfront investment for tools like Active Directory or other desktop solutions.

The price, which will frequently be higher for Office 365 than Google Apps will be a turn off, especially to small business users, Hajibrahim said, saying Microsoft's "price discrimination" will deter smaller companies.

Google Apps also drives a new productivity paradigm, device choice and real-time collaboration, where Microsoft Office 365 keeps more aligned with familiar tools of Windows and Microsoft Office, said Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based Google reseller and Microsoft managed partner.

"Those organizations who wanted to exit the e-mail and collaboration management business and move to cloud -- if they were looking at Google Apps simply because they thought it was the only viable solution to do this, then yes, Office 365 will look very attractive," he said. "These organizations are not looking at moving to the cloud as necessarily an opportunity to transform the way people work -- they want to maintain the predictability and comfort with Windows and Office. A move from Exchange to Office 365 is certainly the more direct and natural migration."

Safoian added: "At the same time, I feel a lot of organizations who are looking at Google Apps are not just looking to offload infrastructure, they are interested in a new paradigm for productivity -- one that embraces real-time collaboration, the Web browser as the platform of choice and makes endpoints and devices the complete choice of the user."

Overall, Google Apps partners don't think Microsoft Office 365 will eat away at their sales and clients.

"Nobody's really very scared," Cohn said.

Hajibrahim added: "There's nothing to worry about."