Are Web apps ready for the enterprise?

Gartner compares strengths, weaknesses of Google, Microsoft services

Organizations should start experimenting with Web apps from Google, Microsoft and other software companies. That's one of the conclusions from a webinar presented by two Gartner analysts on Tuesday.

Web apps are becoming "just good enough" for the enterprise, said Tom Austin, a Gartner vice president and fellow. Austin, along with colleague David Mitchell Smith, provided some general guidance to organizations trying to react to shifts in the IT software market, such as the potential use of Web service offerings and thin clients in the enterprise.

In the "Google vs. Microsoft: A Battle for the Clouds" webinar, the two analysts mostly dissected the ongoing Internet cloud slugfest by the two software giants.

Google has the potential to do much more than search because it has built out a massive data center complex running Linux, which gives them "a significant cost advantage" for delivering services such as Google Gmail, Austin said. G-mail is "good enough for enterprise use," he added, and "a viable contender."

Google Docs, Google's hosted productivity suite, "isn't there yet" for enterprise use, according to Austin. "We don't see it as an aim for Google to replace [Microsoft] Office," he added. Organizations could consider using a hybrid approach, with some users getting Google Docs and some getting Microsoft Office. However, document fidelity is still an issue when round-tripping a document from one format to the other. Austin said that "typically 30 to 70 percent of users could get along with using Google Docs" even though Google Docs is "two generations behind where Microsoft is [with Office]."

Smith said that the Google Apps service (which includes the Google Docs productivity suite) is less of a threat to Microsoft now that the company has rolled out its Office Web Apps service.

In terms of the cloud, Google took a "clean sheet" approach to building out its data centers, which is something that Microsoft has not done, according to Gartner. Microsoft, in contrast is a platform provider focused not just on external clouds but also on private clouds as part of its "Software plus Service" vision.

The Gartner analysts described a laundry list of areas where Microsoft and Google clash. Battleground areas include:

  • Community and social networking.
  • Search and advertising.
  • E-mail.
  • Collaboration and portals.
  • Web platforms and APIs.
  • Enterprise.
  • Office and productivity apps.
  • Consumerization of IT.
  • The mobile space.

Smith noted that Google's forthcoming Chrome OS operating system, which supposedly will bypass traditional operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, will be the first OS that is not a platform. However, Google took a different approach with Android, which is a mobile OS platform. Google needed a platform approach in the mobile space because it still has to catch up with Apple, Smith said.

Users will have more choice with Google Android over Apple's mobile OS. With Android, users can run Flash, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs has banned from Apple platforms. Smith noted inroads for Google's Android strategy. He said he's counted three models of the Apple iPhone, whereas there are 100 models of phones using Android.

Although Microsoft has tended to have some floundering in the consumer mobile space, Smith didn't see mobile as Microsoft's biggest threat. The main threats to Microsoft include OS pricing for netbooks, Google Chrome OS, Microsoft's "leadership focus" and its future sources of growth.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is the online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group sites, including, and

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