Lost in the hullabaloo about Steve Ballmer’s renewed offer to buy Yahoo the other day was his colourful diss of the product threatening to disrupt him: Google Apps.
Steve’s bottom line? All those huge numbers that Google blows around are bogus. Everyone tries Google Apps. No one actually uses them.
Internet News: Asked about Google Apps, which Gartner analyst McDonald said “provide features that are better than what you have,” Ballmer said “nobody uses these things” and dismissed Google Apps as “pretty primitive.” Google Apps are “flatlined, and Microsoft Office is growing 30 per cent in the consumer market,” he added.
Google Apps “don’t have the best word processor or spreadsheet we compete with; we get more competitive pressure from OpenOffice and StarOffice than we do from those guys,” Ballmer said. OpenOffice, from OpenOffice.org, is an open source office software suite that goes head to head with Microsoft Office. It is based on StarOffice, which is offered by Sun Microsystems at a lower price than Microsoft’s offerings.
Responding to Gartner analyst Smith’s comment that half of 400 users surveyed by Gartner yesterday said they were using Google Apps, Ballmer replied “the real statistics are people try, they don’t use.”
More competition from StarOffice than Google Apps. Ouch. Steve goes on to admit that some people use Google Apps: The same people who are stealing music and videos and killing all of Microsoft’s big media customers by refusing to pay for anything:
Ballmer tacitly conceded that Google Apps are hurting Microsoft in at least one area. University students, who are “the leading edge of all consumerization phenomena” use Office but “when it comes to sharing stuff they use Google Apps, which is why we’re moving to Office Live,” he said.
Joseph Tartakoff of the Seattle P-I did some fact-checking and confirmed that at least one of Steve’s claims might be true: Google Apps have flatlined. Google violently disputes that, however.
Because Google has landed some big contracts for its Google Apps recently, including a $500,000 deal with Washington, D.C. , I decided to check in with Ballmer’s source — tracking firm comScore — to see if, in fact, usage of Google Apps was flat over the last seven months.
Andrew Lipsman of comScore said he could not share the data publicly but it “looks like the statement was generally accurate.”
But Google’s David Girouard, who heads the company’s enterprise division, says Ballmer’s remarks were “flat out incorrect.”
“Usage has accelerated if anything,” he said, adding that several people had forwarded Ballmer’s comments on to him. “Our products have grown every month across different Apps.”
He said he was not aware that comScore was tracking usage of Google Apps and therefore could not comment on the firm’s methodology.
But he said that Google Apps’ “most important metric” — the number of users who have used Apps in the last seven days — was “growing constantly.”
He did not provide numbers on the growth over the last seven months — but said there are now more than 10 million active users (Granted, that’s the same stat Girouard provided in a May blog post).
But Girouard said that with the start of the new school year there had been “fairly huge growth” in the use of Google Docs.
For the record, we at SAI use Google Apps. Not because we hate Microsoft–because Google Apps are just much more convenient (no emailing files, no files stuck on the wrong hard drive, no need for 99% of the features built into Word and Excel, etc.) And, of course, it’s also nice that they’re free.