Ballmer claims Microsoft beats down Google in battle for the cloud -- is he blowing smoke?

When it comes to cloud computing, Microsoft is leaving Google in the dust, especially when it comes to apps, Microsoft CEO boasted at the Web 2.0 summit. But take a close look at Google's and Microsoft's enterprise cloud-based offerings, and you'll find that's not necessarily the case.

Ballmer was his usual hype-driven self during an interview with John Battelle of Federated Media. Here's what he said about the battle between Microsoft and Google for the cloud, according to GeekWire:

"If you look at it, when it comes to enterprises moving to the cloud, the first thing people tend to look at is productivity and communications. We are winning, winning, winning, winning, winning. Doesn't mean the other guys don't win a couple, but man, we're successful."

The "other guys," naturally, are Google and its cloud-based productivity product Google Apps. Ballmer is comparing that to the Office 365 suite of business-focused, cloud-based applications, including cloud-based Exchange, Office Web Apps, SharePoint, and other tools.

Ballmer didn't share sales numbers of Office 365 versus Google Apps, so there's no way to know who's ahead in market share. But it's not clear that Office 365 is a better cloud-based suite for enterprises and smaller businesses than Google Apps.

I've taken an in-depth look at Office 365 and found it something of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it offers excellent cloud-based management of Exchange and SharePoint, and can be a big time- and money-saver for enterprises and hard-pressed IT staffs.

But the suite, as a whole, is rough around the edges, isn't a truly integrated piece of software, and its support for Office productivity apps in the cloud is rudimentary. There's no common interface among its disparate parts, and it's very confusing to get from one area to another. It's a Rube Goldberg-type invention, with sometimes ill-fitting pieces bolted awkwardly together at times. So, for example, if you're in SharePoint, there's no way to navigate to many other parts of Office 365, and you'll find yourself heading down dead ends trying to get there.

In addition, its Web-building tools are inadequate except for the most basic tasks. You can't even build your own Web site and then link it to Office 365; you're forced, instead, to use the suite's poor Web design and management tools.

Finally, the suite's cloud-based versions of Office productivity apps including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, are quite rudimentary. They're stripped down, and don't sync their data automatically with client versions of Office. Don't expect to use the cloud versions to get much work done.

All that being said, Google Apps leaves much to be desired as well. It has nothing that comes close to SharePoint capabilities, for example. Still, based on a features comparison, I'm not at all convinced that Microsoft is "winning, winning, winning, winning, winning" when it comes to cloud-based enterprise computing against Google.

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