"All warfare is based on deception," goes the famous line attributed to Sun Tzu in the Art of War. It may very well be the operating principle that both Google and Microsoft have taken to heart in their battle for dominance of the office desktop and cloud.
What’s the deception? Downplaying their rivalry, to the point of pretending that they don’t even care what the other is doing. But they do care. Deeply. Office suites and many other enterprise applications are moving from the desktop to the cloud. The market and offerings may be "immature" now, but both companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of this trend, while battling the competition at every opportunity.
Case in point: The recent battle between the two companies to sell office productivity and email services to the city of Los Angeles. Last month, before the city made a decision, Google downplayed an attack on the security of its cloud-based offerings by Consumer Watchdog — but quickly published a "fact check" document to distribute to city officials to support its claims about reliability and security. According to one report, Google suggested that Consumer Watchdog was "being paid to target Google specifically," without publicly naming the party allegedly paying the group. Now that Google has clinched the $7.25 million LA deal, you won’t find any Google press releases or trumpeting the win. Meanwhile, a senior Microsoft VP says that "Microsoft can’t spend too much time worrying about what they [Google] are doing." However, at the same time Redmond has slashed the price of its Business Productivity Online Suite (which includes email, SharePoint collaboration, and other services) by 33%, clearly to make their products more appealing in light of the inexpensive solutions offered by Google and others.
So, make no mistake: This is war. The market is still in an early stage of development, and only minor skirmishes have been fought between Microsoft and Google thus far, but the battles are almost certain to heat up in the years to come as enterprise customers consider potential cost and infrastructure savings as well as other cloud benefits. In the meantime, don’t be fooled by the two giants’ nonchalant posturing — we may not see much in the way of public fireworks now, but behind the scenes the fighting is fierce.
Sources and research: Channelweb, Redmond Channel Partner Online, Computerworld.com, online.wsj.com, consumerwatchdog.org, Google Enterprise blog, Google press center, Microsoft.com, Infoworld.com, Wikipedia, Military-quotes.com, gartner.com
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