Google Plans to Steal Blue Chips Away from MS Office

Google has stepped up its battle to wean corporate customers off Microsoft Office with a series of technology, marketing and system integrator announcements.

The technology component of these is the Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, an Office plug-in which allows users to share and collaboratively edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

The service works with documents created in Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 for Windows but not Office for Mac, for which Google blamed lack of API access.

"Instead of bombarding each other with attachments and hassling to reconcile people's edits, your whole team can focus on productive work together," Shan Sinha, Google Apps product manager said in a blog.

Microsoft offers similar web-based collaboration, but to make use of it companies have to be using the latest Office version or SharePoint 2010. Companies operating Cloud Connect would be using Google's cloud environment for collaboration.

The marketing ploy is the Appsperience initiative, which enables companies to trial the full Google Apps suite for 90 days for a "nominal fee" - $15,000 for businesses with more than 500 employees and $7,000 for companies with less than 500 employees.

The Appsperience programme has been introduced "so businesses encumbered with 1990s technology can experience modern collaboration and the burst of productivity that's possible now," wrote Sinha.

These two moved are backed up with the Google Apps Certification Program, an online accreditation for IT professionals that want to formalise their competence in selling, developing and supporting Google Apps.

The programme is aimed at systems integrators who already have experience of deploying Google Apps in a least three different environments and are experienced with the use of Google Apps Directory Sync and server side migration tools, such as Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange.

Google claims over 3 million people currently use Google Apps. To date that has comprised largely of smaller organisations or subdivisions of larger ones.

Bigger wins include food retailer Ahold, facilities management heavyweight Rentokil Initial and specialist automative firm Jaguar Landrover.

Separately, Google warned that changes made yesterday to its search algorithms would demote so-called content farms in its search results.

The aim is to improve the quality and usefulness of search results by ensuring sites with original material rank above sites deliberately filled with low-quality or copied content.

The changes will affect 11.8 per cent of searches, initially in the US but to be rolled out in other territories over an unspecified timeframe, according to a blog posted by Amit Singhal, Google fellow, and Matt Cutts, principal engineer.

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