Microsoft and Google Square Off in Hosted Apps

Online application space heats up as Microsoft, Google release new components of their cloud-based productivity suites .

The rivalry between Google Inc. and Microsoft in the nascent online applications battle has stepped up a notch.

In a move to bolster its Software plus Services (S+S) strategy, Microsoft earlier this month released betas of its Exchange Online and SharePoint Online Web services, as well as Office Live WorkSpace, an online suite of tools enabling collaboration.

Looking to upstage Microsoft on the eve of the SharePoint Information Worker conference, Google launched Google Sites, which observers are touting as a "SharePoint killer."

Google's new Google Sites is a wiki based on the company's Jotspot acquisition that's now part of Google Apps. Both Google Apps and Microsoft Office Live WorkSpace offer online e-mail and workspace storage, plus collaboration using less-than-full-featured word processors and spreadsheets.

Competition at the level of cloud-based office productivity suites is still in its early stages, and other players, such as ThinkFree Corp. and Zoho, offer alternative hosted solutions, although Microsoft's and Google's efforts have been the most visible.

Whether enterprises will widely adopt online productivity suites, such as Microsoft Office Live or Google Apps, remains to be seen.

"Adoption of Google in the enterprise has been sparse to date," says Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in an e-mail. He adds that vendors are still working to address security concerns. "They continue to build out functionality and address enterprise concerns regarding stronger security and authentication," he says.

At the March MIX08 conference, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie described Office Live WorkSpace as the "central role of the hub of our connected productivity strategy."

Ozzie emphasized a strategy of enhancing productivity through enabling collaboration in his MIX keynote. "This entire strategy is focused on serving the individual's productivity needs, but we're also bringing it to market in the form of SharePoint, Exchange and Office Communications Server, delivering connected productivity scenarios to individuals within the enterprise," he said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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