The game is on.
Microsoft officially took its ubiquitous Office suite to the cloud this week with Office 365. And that, say industry watchers, is not good news for rival Google, which has been trying to capture the enterprise with its own offerings of cloud-based office apps.
"This is not a great day for Google," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "Microsoft, when it comes to office productivity applications, isn't only an 800-pound gorilla, it's a zoo worth of 800-pound gorillas. They are the standard."
Last year, Google began a concerted effort to push its cloud-based Google Apps into the lucrative enterprise market, taking on Microsoft and its popular desktop applications.
With Microsoft slower to get to the cloud, Google had a head start. Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise division, told Computerworld earlier this year that Microsoft was simply too far behind Google to catch up.
However, now that Microsoft is officially in the game, that advantage might not be so clear.
"Yes, Google's office apps have been out there longer," Olds said. "They definitely have users -- and a fairly decent number of users -- but not a lot of noticeable revenue from it.... And there's no such thing as an insurmountable lead on the Net."
"I think the other thing is that Microsoft will bring a full load of features and a more mature and integrated set of offerings that people already know and understand," Olds said. "That will be big in their favor."
This isn't Microsoft's first cloud-based app offering. It's more of a bundling move.
Microsoft took the wraps off its Office 365 suite of applications on Tuesday, adding long-awaited, Web-based versions of its ubiquitous Office applications to what had been a rather little-noticed collection of hosted business software.
And with Microsoft throwing its full weight into the cloud arena, analysts say that this just might be the beginning of an interesting battle between two companies that already duke it out over search engines, operating systems and browsers.