Google launched an offensive Monday to reassert itself in a cloud productivity tools market it once dominated, offering free Google Apps accounts to mid-market customers under contract with rival vendors as well as subsidies for channel partners deploying the SaaS suite.
Complementing those aggressive incentives, the Internet powerhouse is beefing up the capabilities of Google Apps with new voice dictation and spreadsheet visualization features, Ryan Tabone, director of product management for Google Docs, told CRN.
Google sees the incentive program and added application functionality as a means to expose a new set of potential customers to the cloud-based software that broke major ground in the office productivity market when first introduced almost nine years ago.
That business has become enormously competitive of late, however, with Microsoft's Office 365 cloud suite, at least according to one survey, recently leapfrogging Google Apps to first place in overall market share after years spent chasing Google.
Murali Sitaram, director of global partnerships and alliances at Google for Work, told CRN some 60 percent of the Fortune 500 are already using Google for Work products for both real-time and asynchronous collaboration projects, but many midsize companies have yet to realize the potential savings Apps can deliver them.
That's why the new program is targeting the midmarket - organizations with between 250 and 3,000 users.
Those companies "probably use some productivity tool," said Sitaram. "Our goal is to give them the opportunity to use Google Apps for free while they are under contract." Google will cover the fees for Apps until enterprise agreements with competitors expire, he said.
Google estimates once those companies make the switch, they'll see savings, on average, around 70 percent with Apps as their primary office productivity suite, according to Sitaram.
And to encourage partners to deploy the free instances, Google will pay them $25 per user to subsidize the costs of creating the new accounts.