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Software Speak: Is Microsoft's Office 365 Its Best Defense? - Analyst Blog

It's Google's ( GOOGL ) Singh versus Microsoft's ( MSFT ) Nadella in the workplace now, as the Google At Work President has outlined a bold and rather ingenious plan to push Microsoft out of the market for enterprise productivity tools.

Google says it isn't gunning for 100% of the functionality Microsoft provides since most users don't need as much, reports Business Insider. But it is aiming for 85-90%, which is enough of a lure to corporate IT professionals struggling with budgets.

And just in case you're concerned about using Google At Work when your legacy data is running on Microsoft software, Google's answer comes in the form of Google Drive, where you can store Office documents that can be opened and edited in Word or Excel when these apps are installed on your device/PC.

Google isn't telling anyone to move to its apps: it's simply telling them to try its free alternative in the hopes that more people will start paying for additional functionality. Google has been looking at actual usage of its cloud-based tools, which helps it determine actual requirements.

New cloud computing products are another gateway to enterprise customers.

Other points in Google's favor are the ubiquitous Android OS and Chromebooks, which automatically makes it a strong supporter of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

Microsoft Not Twiddling Thumbs

It isn't fair to assume that Microsoft is sitting idle while Google makes hay. But Microsoft was slow to catch on, for which it is paying the price.

Its first defensive action was to change the reporting structure so it becomes harder to determine the exact contribution of Windows and Office. To be fair, a dominant market leader has to lose share to challengers but it can still manage to show some growth if the market itself is growing. This is what CEO Nadella is banking on. In order to get Microsoft software on the maximum number of devices in a market where Windows market share continues to shrink, the company is opening up to the Android and iOS platforms.

Office 365 is its gateway to the new world, which Microsoft is using to tell enterprise customers that there's no need to move to Google At Work. Companies can use as much or as little of its software on the number of PCs they choose. At $8 per user per month, it is slightly cheaper than Google At Work's $10 per user per month.

Enter Apple

As if Microsoft didn't have enough problems already, Apple ( AAPL ) started making inroads at the enterprise. The price and performance of Apple products make them enterprise grade, so there is a real danger of Apple taking away its high-end business.

Apple's efforts got more aggressive last year as it signed an important agreement with IBM ( IBM ).

IBM is a bit behind because it is struggling to offset the decline in its traditional business with sufficient growth in software/services (cloud). Apple on the other hand has a star performer in its iPhone and because the high-end tablet market is getting saturated, it is seeking new markets for growth.

The partnership appears to be going Apple's way because IBM is responsible for creating custom apps for iPad using its technology (Watson) and domain experience, hosting them on its cloud, using its enterprise sales force to sell them and facilitating deployment. IBM is completely absent from the mobile devices of today, so it's even agreed to ensure that its sales people only carry the iPad and run Apple's Keynote presentations.

Microsoft Answers Apple

Since Apple's business is hardware-centric, Microsoft needed a new plan, for which it launched the Surface tablet. Microsoft pitched the device as a BYOD option for the iPad and priced it similarly to the iPad. The devices failed to catch on mainly because Microsoft was too new to the fiercely competitive and largely saturated market.

Microsoft also launched Office for iOS in an attempt to create a gateway on Apple's platform.

To Conclude

Apple remains the most closed of the three tech giants and protects its turf fiercely. But no one considers it evil (as they did Microsoft) because there are plenty other options for lower end devices. Apple doesn't sacrifice margins for market share.

Google, on the other hand, portrays itself as open, but since it has competitive issues in its core search market, it is in fact very focused on market share gains.

Microsoft is the only one of the three making a concerted effort to open up, mainly because this is essential for its survival. But the company's secrecy on the progress it is making isn't endearing investors (share prices plunged following its quarterly results last month).

Apple has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), Google #3 (Hold) and Microsoft #4 (Sell).

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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