After taking Google head on with its search engine Bing, Microsoft India is attempting to draw more corporate users to its software as a service range. It is offering a free trial of its upcoming software as a service product known simply as Microsoft Online Services, set to launch in October.
What’s On Offer
Products included in this are: Outlook (e-mail), Office Live Meeting (web conferencing), Office Communications Online (instant messaging), and MS Sharepoint for document collaboration. The advantage of SaaS is that it eliminates having to set up an in-house IT team since hosting the applications is by the provider, so is maintenance, upgrades etc.
Microsoft is targeting small and medium businesses that are looking to scale up. Ofcourse, Microsoft’s understanding of medium businesses – between 25 to 499 computers – is actually large for India. It is this target user that makes it different from Google’s own software as a service Google Docs, which is built for individual users like you or me. Whereas Google Docs is free, Microsoft Online Services will be charged after the trial.
1 Or 2 MonthTrial?
The online services customer portal has been built in a clear, step by step fashion, but the entire setting up process was lengthy and repetitive. After registering, you are taken to the services page where it shows you the available trials – but, surprise, surprise, they are just for 30 days and not 2 months as announced by the company. Within half an hour, you are ready to use Live Meeting or Outlook from your PC along with 19 of your co-workers. A quick and easy way to start working without needing to look for software to buy and set up.
The advantage that Microsoft has over Google is not just the mushrooming number of Windows OS users in the country, which make them trust the brand’s other applications such as Outlook or Sharepoint but also the fact that corporate workers are more comfortable with their user interfaces as compared to a new application such as Google Docs. What is suprising is that Microsoft did not attempt to offer an ERP application that would compete directly with Salesforce. ERP is the most popular software in use by Indian small and medium businesses and it would make sense for Microsoft to attempt to grab a piece of the market. Instead it chose to evade the obvious choice.
Microsoft also has a version of online services for startups and small businesses with less than 5 users called Office Live Small Business. This offers a 2 month trial of Microsoft Office, creation of a website, 5 GB of free storage.