Google’s desire to put a dent in one of Microsoft’s biggest cash cows,
Microsoft Office, is no secret. Since introducing a paid version of
Google Apps designed for enterprise consumption in 2007, Google has
aggressively promoted its cloud-based solution as an alternative to
Microsoft Office.

Last year, it even did something that wasn’t very Google-like: it
purchased billboard space in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and
Boston urging businesses to “Go Google“.

Google’s push to get enterprise customers using Google Apps is taking on a bit more urgency today as Microsoft gears up to release the latest version of Office from beta this week. Microsoft seems to have regained credibility with the latest version of its OS, Windows 7, and Microsoft is no doubt hoping that Office 2010 is welcomed just as warmly by consumers and businesses.

In an effort to get decision-makers to think twice, Google did something that might be considered either very bold or very desperate: it published a blog post written by Google Enterprise Product Management Director Matthew Glotzbach that encourages anyone considering an upgrade to Office 2010 to choose Google Docs instead:

This week Microsoft will take its Office 2010 suite out of beta. If you’re considering upgrading Office with Office, we’d encourage you to consider an alternative: upgrading Office with Google Docs. If you choose this path, upgrade means what it’s supposed to mean: effortless, affordable, and delivering a remarkable increase in employee productivity. This is a refreshing alternative to the expensive and laborious upgrades to which IT professionals have become accustomed.

The post goes on to note that Google Docs plays nicely with Office 2003 and 2007, and that it has been used by “millions of users for nearly four years.

The latter point is important, and Google has made significant strides in getting its cloud-based competitor into the hands of enterprise customers. It is even competing head-to-head with Microsoft in some cases. Earlier this year, for instance, Google convinced the City of Los Angeles to buy into the cloud, and Google Apps.

But already, there have been a few bumps in the road in the Los Angeles deployment. And recently the University of Massachusetts announced that it was ditching Google Apps, citing low adoption amongst students and security concerns. The University of Massachusetts isn’t the only school Google received bad news from; University of California Davis recently decided not to deploy Google Apps because of privacy concerns. While it would be far too early to state that these incidents are proof that Google can’t compete in the enterprise market, they do highlight just how difficult that market can be. Customers are demanding, and winning customers and keeping them are two very different things.

When it comes to Office 2010, Google’s plea to enterprise IT buyers is unlikely to win Google any new customers of note. Decisions to upgrade to Office 2010 or not will be made based on more substantive issues all relating to Office 2010’s strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is in control, and it’s Microsoft’s game to win or lose. For the time being, Google can only hope for a break.

Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström via Flickr.