Microsoft has just announced that its Office 365 service has left its beta test version and is now fully available as a paid service. The Redmond giant was clearly inspired to do this by threats to its core Office business from Google Docs and Google Apps, so how does it compare with its Californian competitor?
Well, at first glance there doesn't seem to be that much between them. Both offer full email along with word processing, spreadsheets and presentations through any web browser, and both offer powerful collaboration features. Being based on the well established Sharepoint platform, Microsoft offers a deep integration with their desktop office software. Google on then other hand has a wealth of third party systems which integrate with it. You can sync contacts and email with your mobile from either - Microsoft's is probably slightly better, but unless you have a Windows phone you'll have more options for mobile access to your documents with Google.
Office 365 starts at £4/month, more than Google Apps at £33/year, and Google Docs and Mail are free if you don't need the enterprise features.
So Microsoft is clearly putting a serious contender out there for cloud services. For me, Google’s open platform which means there are lots of third party apps which integrate with it still gives it the edge. However for businesses who are dependent on Microsoft Outlook and the rest of the Office suite and don’t wish to make a massive cultural shift, Office 365 is a great way of getting some of the power of the cloud without having to change or risk too much.