Collaboration Articles

The Small Business Applications Productivity War!

by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 26 April 2011

Do you remember "Video killed the radio stars?" This song has been stuck in my head for quite some time.

For those who haven't heard it, the song is about radio being overwhelmed by the video in the early 1980s as the preferred medium for news and entertainment.

The song seems oddly prescient: video (and visual media, in general) is indeed more popular than radio nowadays. However, as large organizations such as the BBC in the UK and NPR here in America will readily testify, radio has not been "killed" by the radio star. Instead, radio has adapted to changing media (such as the Internet) and consumer tastes. And, so it is with technology. Much as we talk about technology's rapid rate of obsolescence, we forget that outdated technology can also transform to remain relevant.

So, I read a discussion on Quora about Microsoft Office's impending death with some measure of skepticism. Office has long been the linchpin of Microsoft's enterprise strategy: according to Forrester, eighty percent of enterprise users use Microsoft Office in some form or other.

The only real competitors to Microsoft Office are Google Docs, Zoho Docs and Open Office. And, they seem to be fast catching up.

According to White & Stratus, a research firm, about 25 percent of utilities, real estate, and professional services firms are switching to Google Apps. The education sector, especially, seems to be pretty impressed by Google Apps: according to the same research, about 58 percent of companies in the sector are using Google Apps in some form or other.

The catch?

Most organizations polled by the firm use the free version. There is more good news for Microsoft: only 14.9 percent of manufacturing firms and 11.6 percent of healthcare industries are using Google Apps.

Still, the research states that large organizations are increasingly adopting or researchingcloud productivity applications. No wonder, Microsoft recently launched Office 365 Beta : a cloud-based productivity application that provides the same technology power as its offline counterpart. According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president, Microsoft Office Division, more than 70 percent of the people who signed up for the limited beta were small businesses.

The plethora of such applications has only confused small businesses. For example, what factors do you consider when a majority of applications are offering similar features and pricing. Of course, branding is important. As are collaboration and product features. To that mix, I would add pricing as a deciding differentiator. For example, consider that Microsoft charges $72 per year (or $6 per seat per month) for Exchange e-mail, Lync instant messaging, SharePoint collaboration, and the Office Web Apps productivity suite. Compare that to Google Apps which is free of cost for less than 50 users and charges $50 per year for organizations larger than 50 employees. Of course, according to reviews, the Office suite of productivity applications scores over freeware for collaboration and security features. Thus, as a small business, are you willing to pay premium for collaboration and security? In that vein, it might be a good idea to research other productivity applications.

Regardless, the war in cloud-based productivity applications has well and truly begun.

I guess we have finally reached the cloud computing age when businesses, regardless of size, are mobile and hyperlinked with each other. Microsoft's move to a cloud computing productivity application validates the cloud computing trend because it is the largest player in the enterprise productivity application space.

In addition, it proves that the Office might just be the radio star that transforms itself for a new age of cloud computing.

And now back to my song.

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Apps mentioned in this article