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Microsoft, Google and the Battle of Los Angeles

There's no way we're not going to start this entry with Jack Webb, so cue the biting monotone of Sgt. Joe Friday and that iconic opening theme: "This is the city, Los Angeles, California. Every 60 seconds, a crime is committed in Los Angeles..."

And apparently, every couple of decades or so (we're not sure how often, actually), L.A. does an IT refresh. That time has come again. City Hall in the City of Angels is looking to boot an old e-mail system and upgrade to something more modern than what Joe Friday might have used very, very late in his career. (Or maybe not, given that Jack Webb left us in 1982. But we're trying to stick with the theme here.)

The decision has come down to a choice between two contenders: Microsoft Office and Google Apps (not present: Lotus Notes). From what we can tell, this isn't just a Microsoft-Google battle. This is an on-site vs. cloud computing showdown. This is old-school, reliable Office vs. cheaper, intriguing but still somewhat enigmatic Google Apps.

That, we say, is bad news for Microsoft. From what we can tell, Microsoft isn't really talking much about its own cloud offerings surrounding Office and productivity applications. Instead, it's taking a decidedly old-fogey tack and attacking the very notion of cloud computing (again, as far as we can tell) along with Google's ability to reliably store data and make it accessible.

No, no, no, no, no. Now is not the time, Microsoft, to look like the heavy. You might win the Battle of Los Angeles with this tack (although things don't seem to be headed Redmond's way at this point), but you'll do terrible damage to yourself and your partners in the War of Computing Models. Sure, attack Google. That's fair enough. But don't attack cloud computing -- it's here to stay, and you're going to want to be a player in it, as well. Remember the whole reason for hiring Ray Ozzie? Remember Azure?

Tout a hybrid system (Software + Services, anyone?), or talk about how you might be able to move some functions into the cloud at some point -- if not immediately, given that there are already lots of Exchange hosting partners -- but don't bash the idea of the cloud quite as much as you seem to be doing now. You're going to want to sell it one of these days -- soon, maybe even immediately.

Besides, unless the L.A. Times reporter who wrote the linked story is just showing massive Google bias (and we don't have a reason to believe that to be the case), Google's talking advantages and cost savings while you're talking negatives and potential pitfalls. Negative campaigning is no way to win these days.

Times are bad enough as it is without Microsoft executives reminding us that they could get worse and bashing a model that, at the very least, offers a (probably) cash-strapped city in a cash-strapped state drastically cheaper start-up cost than the on-premises platform offers. (Oh, and who was saying this week that IT budgets will be down for a while? That's right: Steve Ballmer.)   

Microsoft, you're better than this. You know better than this. If you're not doing so already, integrate some cloud talk into your proposal. Talk up the benefits of old models and the promise of new ones. Get some partners involved. (Google got one mentioned in the Times.) Right now, Microsoft, you're looking about as up-to-date as Jack Webb's Joe Friday. And while we love Joe Friday, we wouldn't want to buy an e-mail platform from him.

How well do you think Microsoft is handling cloud computing? How much of a factor is cloud computing for your business? Tell all at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM


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