Google offers Apps for free. Too late, Microsoft has sealed the deal.

News this week is that Google is offering its Google Apps for Work products to Microsoft customers for free. Does it matter?

Microsoft Office at Cebit
Peter Sayer/IDGNS

Take your minds back a few short years to when Google first introduces its Apps product. Google Apps was a revolution. Cloud-based office productivity applications that delivered on all of the promises that we've heard for so long about the cloud: collaboration, real-time authoring, anywhere access, etc. Not surprisingly, Google got some early adoption since its was the only product that really fulfilled this use case.

Now come back to the present and things have really changed -- Microsoft, under the vision of its fearless new leader, Satya Nadella, has rethought its office productivity suite and the solutions now all play nicely in the cloud (or mobile for that matter). Real-time authoring, seamless collaboration and integration with a raft of other tools is all now central to Microsoft Office 365.

Which is great for Microsoft users, and Microsoft itself. But what does it mean for Google?

The company that pretty much introduced the concept of cloud-based office productivity looks less and less relevant. Especially for those enterprise customers who already know and use Microsoft Office.

So it is interesting to see Google's latest initiative to entice those Office or Office 365 users. Google just announced that any Microsoft customer that holds an "enterprise agreement" can use Google's alternative, for free, and for the remaining life of their existing contract. Further to that, Google will contribute to the deployment costs of Google Apps for work, up to $25 per user. A nice bonus for all the Google partners who will actually be implementing and supporting Google's product.

Google is, of course, touting the potential cost savings between its product and competitors' solutions. While Google doesn't name Microsoft outright, it is, clearly, the company that Google is targetting with this campaign. While it is true that Microsoft licensing is something of a rabbit warren and a source of much angst for enterprises, there is a difference between this being the fact, and the ability for a company to leverage this fact and be successful in convincing an enterprise to shift platforms altogether.


A nice strategy from Google, but one which is destined for failure. Yes, enterprises would prefer more simple (and economical) license arrangements with Microsoft, but they will, over time, be able to negotiate these anyway. It is a drastic and disruptive move to migrate an entire organization off a specific platform, just because of licensing woes. That is increasingly the case when the platform in question touches every employee within the organization.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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