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Online office app wars: Microsoft vs. Google vs. IBM

Microsoft, Google and IBM are engaged in a battle for the online office productivity market. And so far, at least in the enterprise, Microsoft is winning.

Weekly cloud computing update

Welcome to our new editorial column, an irreverent take on the news we liked, didn't like, featured, didn't feature, and generally whatever we feel like discussing on the topic of cloud computing. This will be a weekly replacement to our staff-contributed Daily Cloud news collection, one that runs every Friday. On to the fun -- this week, online office productivity wars.

Microsoft recently landed the state government of Minnesota as a client, guaranteeing two things: Someone at Google Apps has heartburn, and there is now a lottery pool at Microsoft to decide who will be relocated to a place with minus-25 degree winters for support. It was significant because Microsoft offers something Google can't: actual secure connections, off the Internet, between a large network and its data center facilities. That is "enterprise-class" security, an idea Google apparently has trouble grasping.

Microsoft strikes in the enterprise
However, even with that win, Microsoft has a fraction of the online users that Gmail and Google Apps have, and it is desperately playing catch-up to Google's many successes in switching desk jockeys to cloud. So, to buff up the reputation of its Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), Microsoft covered itself in manufactured glory by announcing a large number of new BPOS customers, including truly world-class enterprises like Sunoco, Volvo, Coca-Cola and DuPont.

To say that Microsoft struck gold in the enterprise is one way of putting it; another is to say that the aforementioned Google Apps representative probably went from heartburn to ulcer in record time.

Microsoft understands the enterprise mindset better than a bunch of 20-something Java programmers, so this isn't too much of a surprise, although it says something about Microsoft's cloud push that it could move so fast on BPOS. Redmond has clearly made a stand here on transitioning from a direct-license sales model to services, and it has done it well. Kudos, or whatever. This still doesn't make up for Windows Me, you hear?

And Big Blue's response is...
But alas, related news from IBM! What's this? Big Blue's big new LotusLive service, launched in January 2009 to mild fanfare and a few big customers (the U.S. General Services Administration, Panasonic), announced new packages for LotusLive, including enhanced document handling and Lotus Notes features, as well as new pricing bundles. It's social collaboration buzzword bingo, that's for sure, but not real news. Hmm, I wonder why IBM is anxious to have some news after the big Microsoft self-applied back-patting?

According to Microsoft, 70% of BPOS customers are coming from competing platforms, mostly IBM Lotus Notes.

Oh, okay, that explains it. Microsoft is eating IBM's lunch at online office collaboration, and Google is eating Microsoft's lunch at non-enterprise online office collaboration. The circle of competitive terror is complete!

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for Contact him at

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