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Let the Battle Begin: Google Apps Versus Microsoft SharePoint
by
Posted On March 6, 2008
Google Sites Launch and Microsoft SharePoint Available via SaaS

The gloves are officially off. Last week, Google announced that it was launching Google Sites to supplement its growing Google Apps product suite (www.google.com/enterprise/apps). Google Sites (www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/users/sites.html) is the integration of JotSpot, a web-based wiki provider that Google purchased more than a year and a half ago. The not-so-subtle goal of Google Sites is to move document creation and collaboration into Google’s ever-growing infrastructure. Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s own Bill Gates announced at the SharePoint Conference this week that it would offer hosted versions of SharePoint (www.microsoft.com/sharepoint) in the second half of this year. This announcement is undoubtedly an effort to halt the momentum of Google Apps in the marketplace.

Google says that more than 500,000 businesses use Google Apps with more than 2,000 new ones signing up every day—impressive numbers to say the least. Microsoft, on its end, boasts that SharePoint will garner more than $1 billion in sales in 2008. The battle for document creation and collaboration is not for small stakes.

Google Sites

While it is hard to see what remains of JotSpot from a look-and-feel standpoint, Google Sites continues the JotSpot tradition of making it easy to collaborate and share information on a webpage. Once the domain of the programmers, wikis allow anyone to post information on a particular topic. Wikis are a great way to manage projects and share information with co-workers (much better than emailing information around that gets forgotten).

According to Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of enterprise at Google, "Creating a team web site has always been too complicated, requiring dedicated hardware and software as well as programming skills. Now with Google Sites, anyone can create an entirely customized site in minutes and invite others to contribute. We are literally adding an edit button to the web."

Google promotes Google Sites as "one stop for information sharing" with example applications of project management, team websites, and fully hosted intranets. Google Sites integrates nicely with the other Google Apps products, which include email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and chat.

Taken as a whole, for the first time, it is possible for an organization to outsource its entire "Office" for $50 per user per year. Google Apps is free to try as a standard edition, but most businesses willing to make the leap to a software as a service (SaaS) intranet will want the premier edition that includes Postini, the high-end email security solution that Google bundles for free.

SharePoint "Killer"

In Michael Arrington’s blog post (www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/27/it-took-16-months-but-google-relaunches-jotspot), Google’s management director of enterprise Matthew Glotzbach called Google Apps a "Microsoft Sharepoint killer." Google Sites is the glue that will allow users to find and collaborate on documents contained in the Google Apps product suite.

According to Ed Laczynski of LTech Consulting (www.ltech.com), a Google Enterprise Professional, "Google Sites makes Apps a clear alternative to SharePoint for small and medium sized businesses. It is a very easy economic decision for companies. Google Apps is a holistic alternative to Microsoft for collaboration that no other vendor to date has been able to present."

SaaS Finally Comes to SharePoint

Gates announced this week that online versions of Exchange and SharePoint will be available in the second half of 2008. Prices were not disclosed, but Microsoft will offer credit toward the cost of subscribing to the online service edition. In parallel, Microsoft chairman Steve Ballmer announced at the CeBIT conference in Germany that the company will offer applications as online services to businesses.

Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 Server helps to "connect people, processes, and information." Within one product suite, businesses have the following enterprise services: collaboration, portals, enterprise search, enterprise content management, and business intelligence. SharePoint is a successful product with a heavy marketing penetration and more than $1 billion in sales.

Microsoft will host SharePoint services in Microsoft data centers, which is a major departure from Microsoft’s business model of working with its channel partners to provide services to its customers. Gates also boasted that Microsoft now has more than 2,000 SharePoint integration partners.

Colliding Worlds

In one corner, there is the "upstart" Google Apps that believes in a 100% web-enabled collaboration environment (and in fact, uses it). Google’s DNA forces it to produce services that are web-based, low-cost, rapidly deployed, and advertising-supported. In the other corner, there is Microsoft that has developed the biggest business over the last 20 years selling software that sits inside companies while relying on partners to manage the implementation.

According to Tony Safoian, president of SADA systems (www.sadasystems.com) and a Google Enterprise Partner as well as a certified SharePoint integrator, "Microsoft has finally decided to take SaaS service delivery in its own hands." He feels that the channel conflict problems have handcuffed Microsoft’s entry into the space as in the past, Microsoft would allow partners to host applications if they so chose. He states that its decision to host the applications is a potential major disruption to its basic business model.

According to Steve Arnold, author of Beyond Search (http://arnoldit.com/wordpress), "Google Sites is definitely not SharePoint, nor is it a SharePoint killer. SharePoint has upwards of 65 million users, and it is—whether the users like it or not—going to be with us for long time. SharePoint is complex, requires care and feeding by Microsoft Certified Professionals, and requires a number of other Microsoft server products before it hums."

Microsoft has a major channel problem on its hands that Google does not.

Writing on the Wall

The writing is on the wall concerning the impending switch from enterprise software to SaaS. According to Safoian, recent SharePoint customers who have gone through the process of updating their hardware and software and have paid for the services tell him that they will not go through it again.

While organizations may not be ready to commit to moving all of their business processes outside their organizations now, they are aware of Google Apps and other SaaS solutions. In a down economy, it seems hard to justify the cost, time, and expense (or "footprint") of enterprise software systems.

In-house solutions do not fully acknowledge a distributed and collaborative world. Safoian spoke about the multistep process for an engineer to enable someone outside of an organization to collaborate in the SharePoint environment. Collaboration outside of the organization is handled through a click of the mouse in Google Apps. Microsoft’s announcement is an acknowledgement of this reality.

In just a few years, we will all create documents online that are shareable and collaborative. Whether the winner will be the upstart Google, with hosted applications in its DNA, or Microsoft, with its large, installed base and savvy management, remains to be seen.

For the first time, Microsoft has a serious threat to its multibillion dollar Office business, but it will not go down without a fight. The fight will be long and hard, but it should prove helpful (to consumers who use these tools in their every day lives) and entertaining.

According to Arnold, "I think the real significance of Google Sites is that Google is edging ever closer to getting authors to create information for Google." We shall all see soon enough how these technologies evolve during the upcoming battle.


Erik Arnold is a consultant for Adhere Solutions, Inc., a company that specializes in helping organizations leverage new technologies to maximize efficiency and revenue.

Email Erik Arnold
Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Sandip Patil9/24/2010 12:43:07 AM

I think your are not fully aware of Sharepoint features. Go and read first and then make any statement.
Posted By techieg LName10/26/2009 3:11:25 PM

Really, Google excels in the personal space but the enterprise is Microsoft's. Even more so now with Microsoft Online Services (http://www.microsoft.com/Online/default.mspx) Office Web Apps (http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/), Windows Azure (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/), Windows UC (http://www.microsoft.com/uc/en/us/default.aspx) and the new SharePoint 2010 (Its like SharePoint + MS Office Web Apps), etc. Checkout the video: (mms://msstudios.wmod.llnwd.net/a2294/o21/msstudios/0910/1001501/1001501_SharePoint2010_Sites_Cory_1000k.wmv)
Posted By Pankaj Taneja8/24/2009 2:10:27 PM

It would be more fair to compare Google Apps with Microsoft BPOS (which includes SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and LiveMeeting), because Google Apps also includes messaging capabilities (Gmail) and rudimentary video conferencing (GTalk) which SharePoint does not include. We recently did a comparison between Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS which you may want to see @ http://www.hyperoffice.com/google-apps-vs-microsoft-bpos/
Posted By Lance Stone3/1/2009 6:20:12 PM

So I tried out Google Docs and I'm a very open minded person but I just don't see it being that great. As a matter of fact I've seen better stuff with Basecamp.

Personally I see Sharepoint and Companies like Basecamp being the leaders in this market.
Posted By Steve Mcabee12/26/2008 4:19:51 AM

You have to check out http://www.manymoon.com its the only to online free web application that works with google apps

Manymoon is a secure to do list and project management application for Google Apps! Manymoon is like Basecamp and Sharepoint for Google Docs.

* Private and Shared To Do List (attach Google Docs)
* Turn emails into tasks, receive daily reminders
* Projects and milestones linked to Google Doc
* Add tasks to google Calendar

http://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/viewListing?productListingId=5019093+13553431478272645297
Posted By Tony Safoian3/13/2008 8:56:33 PM

I know I'm late to the comment party - but I do want to say there is a market for both - SharePoint and Sites.

If you don't want to mess around with hardware, databases, backup, IT people, Antivirus, servers, licensing, upgrades and patches, etc... you can use Google Sites.

If you want to build a collaboration site and share it with the world or with your organization (or just a few people) in a few minutes and spend $0.00 - (or maybe $50/user/year), then you can use Google Sites.

If you are so concerned with security, and on-premise data, and going through all of these processes and expenses required to run the infrastructure SharePoint demands, you can run SharePoint.

You know, when cities began to offer electricity, some people still wanted to run their own generators. When Banks were just becoming popular, some people still wanted to keep their money under their mattress.

If you think you can run a better, more secure data center and support infrastructure with better uptime and data security than Google, you should definitely NOT consider Google Apps.
Posted By Erik Arnold3/9/2008 8:58:09 PM

Thanks for the comment. I tried to make clear that I think Sharepoint is not going anywhere, and for the record, it is a good product. However, I do believe that hosted applications should not be overlooked (by anyone) in today's world.

The most successful Software as a Service (SaaS) provider is Salesforce.com. Customer and sales information is very confidential, but yet, even Fortune 500 companies store this information on Salesforce's hosted servers. You a say a business will not trust Google for hosting, but large companies have proven that they trust the SaaS model with highly sensitive information.

I agree Sharepoint is the "industry standard." However, I work with many startups, and the gulf between their operations compared to larger businesses is massive. Most new companies with which I have spoken over the last year do work in the following way:

* Create and collaborate documents with an online “Office” tool such as Google Apps or Zoho (soon Microsoft).
* Manage projects in Basecamp
* Use Salesforce to track leads
* Instantly have access to all of their information above no matter where they are located

No one worries about software licenses, hardware upgrades, or even training. I have trouble seeing these companies retreating from these services as they grow larger.

The cost structure of this approach is tough to argue against. These types of companies would fire someone for spending scarce money on internal infrastructure as opposed to leveraging a hosted service for a monthly fee.

I will not say your predications will prove incorrect, but I don't see the future as being that black and white. Google Apps will probably never "kill" Sharepoint, but that does not mean people will not leverage hosted, collaborative applications in unpredictable ways.
Posted By David H3/7/2008 1:38:01 PM

I think this article is a little biased and fails to cover the reality of the situation. SharePoint really is the future -- not just for businesses, but for our personal computers as well, and Microsoft has the market penetration necessary to make SharePoint work for consumers as well as businesses. Rather than use GoogleDocs, I actually just email word docs to myself when I want them to be accessible from multiple locations -- or, in my work life, I add them to my sharepoint library.

Google will not win here because:
1) Companies want to host their own sensitive or confidential information and thus do not trust Google for hosting.
2) Office, SharePoint, are all well underway to becoming industry standard and the adage "No one ever got fired for going with Microsoft" still applies.
3) SharePoint will be expanded to become an integral part of future versions of the windows operating system. The Software as a Service idea really has been replaced with Software + Services, and it is a model that does work.

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