Google Apps – Can it beat out Microsoft in the Enterprise in the long term?

I recently read this post through my google feed titled Google Still Doesn’t Get How to Beat Microsoft Office a while ago and thought this would be a great segway to some observations I had about Google Apps. For some context, I’m an avid Google Apps user. I use it for my personal domains (i.e. for both my business as well as my private domains) as well as professionally in an enterprise setting. The feedback in general are mixed like most things – some people love it, some people are ambivalent about it and some people loathe it. No real surprises there. I’m in the camp of those who really like it. Although I have Microsoft Office installed on every device I have – I even pay for a TechNet license so that I can always have the latest and greatest software available – but I find myself using it less and less for most things. For the most part, my needs can be met by using the word processor, spreadsheet and, yes, even the presentation app that they have. They are no where as good as Microsoft Office but for me they do the job. Even more importantly for me, no one has yet to complain when I either share with them my document either in through Google Docs or through the attached documents.

I’m working for a relatively young company now – we’ve been existence for less than a couple of years but we’re striving to grow. While I’m a tech-head, I would say most of my colleagues aren’t but they aren’t afraid of tech either. I suspect that we’re the sort of company that Google is targeting for and it’s a smart play, in my opinion. I suspect that many new tech startups use Google Apps as their default enterprise collaboration software because it’s free and relatively painless to set up. You get a whole bunch of really powerful tools to go with it even if you didn’t intend to use it to start. There are better tools in market than any of the Google Apps products but nothing easier to set up and nothing that works more seamlessly together. This is actually very similar to the Microsoft Office strategy back in its heyday. In a lot of ways, it’s actually a smart play not to worry about backwards compatibility. In the market that Google seems to be addressing, it’s not high on the priority list. And it’s actually one of the things that have persistently hindered Microsoft from growing as quickly as it needed because it was constantly going back to ensure software was compatible to products that are sometimes more than a decade old. In technology, that’s at least 5 generations old – it’s like trying to ensure that we can support horse buggies today.

In short, Google isn’t playing to win in the short term. Google seems to be attacking Microsoft but not head-on. It’s betting on the future and I think it’s a smart bet. It seems to be doing tactically and strategically. It also shows that Google knows it target market and isn’t wasting it’s effort on features that aren’t nearly as relevant as other things in the pipeline for them. I’d love to actually see some stats on this to see if my hypothesis holds.