The issue revolves around a new feature introduced by Google allowing customers to switch to Google email and productivity applications while retaining the popular Microsoft Outlook front-end client. As I recently noted, many corporate users are loathe to give up Outlook, which integrates calendar, appointment and contact features with email, and the new Outlook sync allows enterprises to adopt much less expensive tools without ruffling feathers.
The feature doesn't pose a significant threat to Microsoft in and of itself, but add this convenience to the price comparison between a $50 per user cost and the cost of the Microsoft Exchange, Office and PowerPoint stack in the current environment, and you see the beginnings of a serious impact on Microsoft's dominance. Put this together with the growth in market share of the Android operating system (for laptops as well as smartphones), the sharp rise in adoption of Google's Chrome browser and the growing dominance of Web-based business software, and you have the makings of a veritable avalanche rushing Microsoft's way.
It may not be obvious to everyone, including my colleague Erik Sherman, but it sure as heck is obvious, and ominous, to Microsoft, which was quick to pull the alarm bell of "a serious bug / flaw with the recently announced Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook."
The flaw in question is that the sync feature prevents Microsoft's desktop search from indexing and searching Outlook data. When's the last time you used Microsoft's desktop search? Wait -- let me rephrase that. When's the last time you even heard about Microsoft's desktop search? I'd venture to say it was somewhere between 2003 and never. Until now, with Microsoft trying to pull the emergency brake on a subway train that has left it in the station.
The trouble with this mud-slinging (and Microsoft's blatantly insincere offer to help Google "find a resolution for our mutual customers" -- please pass me the barf bag) is that there's no surprise here. As all enterprise software vendors, Google provides a full list of bugs and other issues in an FAQ for IT administrators -- the only difference being that Google's is much shorter than most -- and most certainly shorter than Microsoft's.
Microsoft will try to gas-bag as much mileage as it can out of this, but the issue itself is as insignificant as the wave pattern caused by Microsoft's pebble. Erik writes that the bug issue is "another example of how far Google has to go to turn itself into a vendor that enterprises can trust." I see it as another example of little sleep Microsoft executives are getting as they contemplate the Google Wave crashing down upon them.
[Image source: Wikimedia Commons]