Countering Microsoft’s FUD Mongering of Software as a Service

Read-Write Web via Mary Jo Foley at ZD Net reports that Microsoft is randomly spamming its customers to spread FUD about web apps/software as a service.

1. Google touts having enterprise level customers but how many “USERS” of their applications truly exist within the enterprise?

Why does this matter? How many users does the Mac OS have compared to Windows and how has this adversely affected Apple? It has not. Apple thrives despite having fewer users. And their ability to think different and challenge the status quo is what has let them to innovations such as the iPod and iPhone.

2. Google has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a “known only to Google” schedule – this flies in the face of what enterprises want and need in their technology partners – what is Google doing that indicates they are in lock step with customer needs?“

Yes Microsoft, Google has realized that being more agile has its advantages. They can rebuild, add features, and fix bugs to their apps in real time. Meanwhile, while MS release new versions of software every couple of years. Google would never change a feature that could damage data. Windows, on the other hand, allows for malicious hackers to gain entrance to its OS without the user’s authorization and install malware and spyware. And since all the data resides on that computer, it is possible for your data to get erased on otherwise unrecoverable.

What isn’t Google doing that shows that are in step with users? They are providing innovative applications that people are passionate about. Search, AdSense, GMail, and Reader are just a few applications I can think of that people really love. They have active blogs for each of their services. They have active user communities for each service in Google Groups.

3. Google touts the low cost of their apps –not only price but the absence of need for hardware, storage or maintenance for Google Apps. BUT if GAPE is indeed a complement to MSFT Office, the costs actually become greater for a company as they now have two IT systems to run and manage and maintain. Doesn’t this result in increased complexity and increased costs?

Wrong. The “IT system” of hosted apps is managed by the service provider (in this case, Google). You will never need to massage a database, install new software, upgrade the OS with a hosted app. And if you want to use that analogy, then the number of IT systems you have to manage with Microsoft apps is the number of user’s computers you have in your enterprise plus your number of internal servers. When the only necessary app is a browser, it is safe to say that an IT administrator’s job is much easier.

4. Google’s primary focus is on ad funded search. Their enterprise focus and now apps exist on the very fringe and in combination with other fringe services only account for 1% of the company’s revenue. What happens if Google executes poorly? Do they shut down given it will them in a minimal and short term way? Should customers trust that this won’t happen?

Don’t even go there. How many business is Microsoft in? More than it should be. It feels the need to compete with every successful new player in emerging technology: mobile OS, video games, search, ad network, mp3 players, multiple online music store strategies, mapping, desktop software, web programming frameworks, servers, content portal website, IPTV partnerships with cable companies, home media servers, MS branded OEM’ed computer hardware, multiple email client strategies. And have any of these execute poorly? Yes. And has this screwed any of their customers over? Yes, it has (PlaysForSure partners left out in the cold is just one example).

5. Google’s apps only work if an enterprise has no power users, employees are always online, enterprises haven’t built custom Office apps – doesn’t this equal a very small % of global information workers today? –On a feature comparison basis, it’s not surprising that Microsoft has a huge lead.

Catering to “power users” as a strategy for mass user adoption is a dead strategy. Have you heard the term “less is more”? Being at Microsoft, probably not. Go read 37 Signals blog and books. MS is all about packing in so many features that the average user can easily get confused. Internet connection: ubiquitous. Will Google use technology that allows apps to be off-line such as Adobe Air? Probably. Global info workers arethe future, and Google is already there. This reminds me of that Wayne Gretzky quote that doesn’t need repeating.

6. Google apps don’t have essential document creation features like support for headers, footers, tables of content, footnotes, etc. Additionally, while customers can collaborate on basic docs without the above noted features, to collaborate on detailed docs, a company must implement a two part process – work together on the basic doc, save it to Word or Excel and then send via email for final edits. Yes they have a $50 price tag, but with the inefficiencies created by just this one cycle, how much do GAPE really cost – and can you afford the fidelity loss?

E-mailing docs around is the paradigm that hosted apps makes irrelevant. If you want to make this argument, you really don’t understand. Headers and footers? I’m sure Google is working on this (if it is in fact “essential,” and I don’t think it is) and when they are done, all the users will get this feature for no additional charge, all at the same time, all without having to upgrade a user’s desktop software.

7. Enterprise companies have to constantly think about government regulations and standards – while Google can store a lot of data for enterprises on Google servers, there is no easy to use, automated way for enterprises to regularly delete data, issue a legal hold for specific docs or bring copies into the corp. What happens if a company needs to respond to government regulations bodies? Google touts 99.9% uptime for their apps but what few people realize that promise is for Gmail only. Equally alarming is the definition Google has for “downtime” – ten consecutive minutes of downtime. What happens if throughout the day Google is down 7 minutes each hour? What does 7 minutes each hour for a full work day that cost an enterprise?

When a hosted app goes down, all users know. There is a lot of pressure (and a lot of resources) to fix the problem asap. When your desktop app goes down, who knows about it? Only you. Is there pressure to fit the problem? Not really. Your IT guy will get around to it when he has finished fixing other more important problems. Thanks for the feature requests (deleting docs, deal with legal issues). If Google thinks they are important enough they will add them.

8. In the world of business, it is always on and always connected. As such, having access to technical support 24/7 is essential. If a company deploys Google Apps and there is a technical issue at 8pm PST, Sorry. Google’s tech support is open M-F 1AM-6PM PST – are these the new hours of global business? And if a customer’s “designated administrator” is not available (a requirement) does business just stop?

Most Google apps are so easy to use that you don’t need support. But what if you did? You could just do a Google search to find the answer to your support question. So, some customers won’t use Google apps because there is no a support person available 24/7? Google is probably better off without such a demanding customers.

9. Google says that enterprise customers use only 10% of the features in today’s productivity applications which implies that EVERYONE needs the SAME 10% of the feature when in fact it is very clear that in each company there are specific roles people play that demands access to specific information – how does Google’s generic strategy address role specific needs?

Google wants to make mainstream products that cater to most users needs. Why confuse most users by adding features they don’t need just to please the minority? Customers that need more features can stick to desktop MS apps. That is fine with Google.

10. With Google apps in perpetual beta and Google controlling when and if they rollout specific features and functionality, customers have minimal if any control over the timing of product rollouts and features – how do 1) I know how to strategically plan and train and 2) get the features and functionality I have specifically requested? How much money does not knowing cost?

Sound just like question number 2. However, I don’t anticipate a Google app changing so much overnight that I need to “strategically plan and train.” Especially in comparison to, I don’t know, maybe the disruption caused from switching from XP to Vista.

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