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Google Apps Free Promo Targets Enterprises Using Office 365

The rapid growth of Office 365 has become a thorn in the side of Google Apps team and the company is now fighting back. Google today said it will offer its Google Apps service free of charge to midsized enterprises (organizations from 350 to 3,000 employees) for the duration of their contracts with Microsoft, IBM or any other productivity suite provider. The offer applies to any business, but Google is aiming to target mid-market companies, i.e. those with seats usually between 250 and 3,000. So, no company will be excluded just because they don't fall within that range. 

Google has kicked off the offer as it has seen Microsoft steal its lead in the subscription-based personal and group productivity and SaaS-based e-mail and collaboration markets. While Microsoft reports that there are 15.2 million subscribers to the Office 365 Personal and Home Editions, the company hasn't disclosed how many have subscribed to enterprise-oriented SKUs including licenses with Exchange and/or SharePoint Online. However a report published in August by security vendor Bitglass, showed that Office 365 has overtaken Google Apps over the past year.

Usage of Office 365 increased 300 percent over the past year, showing that 25.2 percent of enterprises use the services, compared with last year's 7.7 percent, according to the report. Google grew too but only has 22.8 percent of enterprises from 16.3 percent last year. Microsoft has fared even better with enterprises with more than 500 employees, where 34.3 percent use Office 365 compared with 22.9 percent that use Google Apps. Bitglass, which fielded the report, gathered the number using traffic reports from 120,000 organizations. Microsoft pointed to the report in the Office Blog and disclosed that Bitglass supports both Office 365 and Google Apps though it's listed partners are Microsoft, Dropbox, Box, Salesforce.com, OneLogin, Okta, Deloitte, Forsythe and Sayers (Google was not listed).

"For several years Google was the standard for cloud based productivity suites. However, with the release of Office 365, Microsoft has provided a viable alternative to Google Docs," said Alan Lepofsky, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research. "The timing for this offer is good, as many organizations are evaluating if they should switch from Microsoft's on-premises offering to the cloud, and this helps place Google Apps for Work into the decision making matrix."

Google is hoping that if organizations take advantage of the ability to try its apps suite for the duration of an existing Office 365 contract that they'll see some of the benefits it offers. Ryan Tabone, director of product management for Google Docs, explained during an interview that the company has added 350 features to Google Apps, including improved fidelity, support for pivot tables in its Sheets spreadsheet, redlining, real-time editing and the ability to work with legacy file formats and workloads.

Tabone demonstrated two new features added last month that take advantage of its cloud-based machine learning capabilities. One was the ability to perform real-time voice-to-text transcription and the other, to render visualization from datasets that can render key business impact results.

"We are trying to push the industry again," Tabone said. "We are not just a good solution in this space -- we are actually a better solution for most enterprises."

To take advantage of the service, customers must do so through one of Google's 13,000 implementation partners. The company is also offering $25 per user to implement and integrate the service.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/19/2015 at 10:51 AM


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