Google Apps gained a lot of momentum primarily because users found it to be an easy, low-cost way to share documents across the Web with people both inside and outside the company.
That created a unique level of functionality that Microsoft really couldn’t match until it started making Microsoft Office 365 available just over a year ago. Now that Office 365 has been available for a year, it’s starting to look like Microsoft is gaining some traction in efforts to stem defections to Google Apps.
According to Kirk Gregersen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office division, Office 365 is among the fastest-selling products in the history of Microsoft with seats numbering in the millions with customers such as Lowe’s, Burger King, Hallmark Cards and Japan Airlines deploying thousands of seats.
Gregersen says that in addition to taking advantage of the cloud to reduce Office deployment and management costs, end users have been using the Web version of Office 365 as an adjunct to the online version of Office 365 based on a rich client. That Web client version, says Gregersen, gives users the collaboration capabilities they need across the Web without having to sacrifice the rich features of Microsoft Office that most end users rely on. In fact, Gregersen says that capability is bringing users of Google Apps back to the Microsoft fold “in droves” because people want to use features in PowerPoint, for example, that they have come to depend on.
Microsoft is, of course, also taking advantage of its considerable ecosystem of resellers, consultants and integrators to drive adoption of Office 365. While it’s taken a while for that to happen, an implication of that effort is Microsoft finally hitting its Office 365 sales stride.
Productivity applications in the cloud may not be for everybody. But it is clear that there are going to soon be tens of millions of people regularly using Office 365 in the cloud who in the past might have only used Google Apps when there wasn’t another accessible alternative available.