Microsoft is continuing its marketing campaign against Google Apps today by publishing two Valentine’s Day “breakup” letters from customers who tried Google Apps and then switched back to Microsoft.The letters are corny, but the sentiment is real. An interview with one of the switchers reveals why Google is going to have such a hard time displacing Microsoft in business software.
BridgeView IT is an IT recruiting firm with about 30 employees and 100 freelance consultants. In a phone interview, BridgeView cofounder Tim Glennie explained that his company faced an expensive upgrade to its on-premise e-mail system, which was based on an old version of Microsoft’s Exchange Server. To save money, the company looked at Google Apps, which costs $50 per user per year.
But after the 30-day trial ended last October, BridgeView decided to go with Microsoft’s hosted offering, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) instead.
Here are some reasons why:
- Google Apps had trouble syncing data with employees’ BlackBerry devices.
- BridgeView makes heavy use of nested email folders in Outlook, which didn’t show up correctly in Gmail.
- When BridgeView tried to contact Google for support, they couldn’t find a phone number to call. Google does offer a support line for issues like major outages, but for point questions Google pointed BridgeView to online forums.
The Microsoft solution is more expensive — $120 per user per year — but for a company that had been using Microsoft software for years, it proved to be an easier transition than Google Apps. It wasn’t perfect — e-mail arrives a little more slowly than before, and managing user accounts doesn’t work quite the same way. But if there’s a problem, at least phone support comes as part of the monthly fee.
Glennie acknowledges that Google Apps might be fine for companies starting from scratch. “If a buddy called me and said ‘We’re starting a company, what should we do?’, I’d tell them to start with Google Apps for $50 per year and see if it works for their needs. But if you’ve built an organisation using Microsoft client software like Outlook, Word, and Excel, it’s very hard to move away.”
Microsoft has published a case study with more details of BridgeView’s experience.
Because BridgeView is in the IT business, Glennie also talked to a lot of his customers while considering the switch. He says that some tech companies BridgeView works with are very bullish on Google Apps — “they think it’s cool, they’ve heard all the hype, they’re into the open APIs” — and Glennie admits that Google has been smart with the Apps Marketplace, which lets partners fill gaps by building apps on top of the basic Google Apps platform.
But most of BridgeView’s clients are more conservative: “We work with a lot of financial services organisations, and they’re going to stay the course.” He continues, “With a large enterprise, the safe answer is with Microsoft. You know what you’re getting.”
This is just one person’s opinion, and Google also has customers who can testify why they chose Apps over Microsoft software and services — we’ll talk to some of them later this week. But Glennie’s comments show how entrenched Microsoft is in the enterprise.
(Note that Microsoft helped write the BridgeView case study and breakup letter, and is promoting them both on its site. But Glennie said that BridgeView does not do any business with Microsoft and received no compensation for participating in the campaign.)
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