SiliconFilter

Googlelighting: The Google/Microsoft War of Words Continues, Now in Musical Form

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“Who knows what the future holds for Google Apps.” That’s the question Microsoft would like its customers to ask themselves before switching away from Microsoft Office and to Google’s cloud-based productivity suite. To underline its point, Microsoft just released a new video attack ad that accuses Google of running Google Apps “on the side” even though it has no business meddling in productivity software because it only has “twelve years of experience in ad sales.”

♫ “If Google Apps Meets is Grave, Your Business is Hosed” 

Microsoft, of course, is making fun of Google’s general development mode here by highlighting that Google Apps could potentially change at any point while a company is using it – and while unlikely, it could even potentially kill it off at any point. That, indeed, could be a major point of resistance for large companies that would like to switch to a cloud-based productivity suite like Apps. For them, a change in a widely used piece of software, after all, means retraining staff, for example. And just to highlight this point, the video then kicks into a music number that explains that Google really can’t be trusted to even keep really useful features around.

For the longest time, the rivalry between Google and Microsoft was fought through features and a few sly remarks here and there, but things have gotten rather public and heated between the two companies lately. For the most part, the aggression seems to come out of Redmond, though, with Google trying to defend itself against the accusations on its own blog and in the press.

Microsoft, for example has been taking out ads in national newspapers to highlight the changes Google made to its search engine and privacy policy lately and also happily jumped on the bandwagon of those accusing Google of trying to circumvent the privacy controls of Apple’s Safari and its own Internet Explorer.

Microsoft also launched an anti-Gmail video ad earlier this month:

google_ms_office_comparison

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9:48 am


Microsoft Beats Google in Schools, Is Now the Most Popular Cloud Productivity Service for Education

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When it comes to cloud productivity services and education, it’s easy to think that Google is the only game in town. Google, after all, seems to make an announcement every time a new school signs up for Google Apps for Education. Microsoft, however, has been quietly expanding its reach in the education market with [email protected] over the last few years. Today the company announced that its cloud-based service for schools is now “the most widely used cloud productivity service for education.” [email protected] grew 100% year-over-year compared to last year and now has 22 million users.  Google, in comparison, has signed up 15 million students, faculty and staff for Google Apps for Education.

live_at_edu_hat_logo[email protected] is actually currently in the process of transitioning to becoming Office 365 for Education to keep it on par with Microsoft’s other cloud-based productivity offerings. Office 365 for Education includes support for all the regular Office Web Apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), as well as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Microsoft also stressed that school can use its tools to do more than just manage documents and email online. With Lync, Office 365 for Education also includes tools for holding virtual classes and online meetings, for example.

Microsoft offers 5 different plans that schools can offer their students, ranging from basic free accounts for students and school, to more fully-featured suites that start at $6/month.



7:06 pm


Google Apps for Business Users Finally Get 24×7 Phone Support

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Until now, Google Apps for Business users who pay a monthly or annual per-user fee to use the business versions of Gmail, Google Docs and similar services under their own domain names had one problem: the only real support option was over email. While that may work for most problems, quite a few users actually prefer to get an immediate answer and to talk to somebody knowledgeable over the phone. Starting today, Google now provides 24×7 phone support for Google Apps for Business users for all issues related to the product’s core services. These include Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar, among others.

As Jocelyn Ding, Google’s VP for Enterprise Operations notes in the announcement today, “In the early days, our customers reached us mainly through email, and our 24 x 7 phone support was limited to critical issues. To improve the experience of our customers, we now provide 24 x 7 phone support to small, medium, and large Google Apps for Business customers for all issues affecting the core services.”

Here are the phone numbers you can call: [list]

  • U.S. Technical Support: 1-877-355-5787
  • International Technical Support: 1-404-978-9282 [/list]

Customer Satisfaction Among Google Apps Users: 80%

According to Google’s own numbers, customer satisfaction among Google Apps for Business users is 80% for business customers and 90% for large business customers. While Google glances over this, the fact that 20% of business customers aren’t fully satisfied with Google Apps is quite a high number and surely one of the main reasons why Google now offers phone support.

Google has always had an aversion against offering support by phone. After all, Google is the company that didn’t offer phone support when it launched its first phone. It’s interesting to see that this seems to be changing now.

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5:35 pm


Google+ Now Available for Google Apps Users

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Google just announced that Google+, the company’s new social network, is now available for Google Apps users as well. That means all of you who have Google Accounts through work or school (or simply because you use the free version for your own domain) can now finally access Google+.

One of the tweaks for Google Apps users is that you can’t just share content publicly and with your circles, but that you will also have the option to share with everybody in your organization. Google+ will automatically create a circle for your organization.

The administrator of your Google Apps account will have to turn Google+ on manually (unless your domain is set up to enable new services automatically), but once that’s done, you can simply sign up with your Google Apps account and get going. Google is rolling this service out slowly, so it may take a few days before you get access to Google+ for your Google Apps account.

It took Google quite a while to turn on Google+ for Apps users. Adding support was one of the most requested feature for Google+ ever since its launch. It’ll be interesting to see how businesses will use Google+ internally.

Be Careful Who You Share With…

It’s worth remembering that Steve Yegge’s infamous Google platform rant only became public because he mistakenly shared his story publicly instead of internally, so make sure you check your sharing settings before you hit that publish button…



5:28 pm


Google Apps Gets $5 Monthly Plans, Makes Businesses With 10+ Users Pay

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Earlier today, Google announced some changes to its Google Apps accounts. First the bad news: business with more than 10 users will soon have to sign up for a paid Google Apps for Business account when they sign up for a new account (current users will continue to get up to 50 free accounts). Until now, the limit was 50 users. The good news: business users won’t have to prepay for a whole year anymore. Google’s new flexible plan gives company’s the option to pay $5 per month per user without any contractual commitments. Google will continue to offer annual plans for $50 per year. These updates will go into effect within the next few weeks.

When it first launched, Google Apps was available for free at no cost to organizations of any size. The first paid version of Google Apps – Google Apps Premier – launched in 2007 and introduced a 99.9% uptime promise and 24/7 tech support. Since the launch of this paid version, Google has slowly brought the amount of users business could add to their free accounts down – first to 200, then 50 and now 10.

Two exceptions to today’s announcement: Schools and non-profits that use Google Apps for Education will continue to receive free accounts and current customers can continue to add additional users (up to 50) at no additional charge.

 



10:03 pm


5 Services that Deserved More Attention in 2010

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As the year draws to an end, it’s hard not to look back and think about all the cool apps that I looked at over the last 12 months. I’ll talk a bit about my favorite apps and biggest disappointments in other posts, but I also wanted to highlight some of the coolest apps and Web Services that I use all the time but that didn’t get a lot of mainstream (or even tech blog) coverage in the last year and that deserve another look.

Without further ado, here is my list for 2010:

My6Sense

my6sense logo

Building good recommendation engines is tough. In the world of reading recommendations for RSS feeds, nothing currently beats My6Sense. The app – available for iPhone and Android – also works as a straightforward RSS reader, but the real power is in its reading recommendations which learn from your behavior as you use the app (did you click on the story? Did you recommend it to others? How much time did you spend reading it?). The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to start over – you can just import all your Google Reader Over on ReadWriteWeb, we rated it as one of the top 10 RSS and syndication services of 2010, but overall, My6Sense has been flying under the radar for too long. Hopefully, with the addition of Louis Gray as the VP of marketing, My6Sense will get more visibility in 2011.

Producteev

producteev logo

Over the last year, I tested far more productivity and task management apps than I’m willing to admit, but the one that stood out for me – mostly thanks to its simplicity and ease of use – was Producteev. I currently use the service for my own task management needs, is large parts thanks to its integration with Google Apps, but also because of its full suite of other services, including its iPhone app, Gmail gadget and the ability to create tasks by simply sending an email to the right address. For the near future, Producteev also promises to release a Mac desktop app, which should make it a great choice for GTD disciples on the Mac.

Pearltrees

Pearltrees logo

“Curation” was the biggest buzzword of late 2010, yet while various Twitter-based services like Curated.by got a lot of buzz this year – and even link shortener Bit.ly now offers a curation feature – Paris-based Pearltrees remained relatively unknown. While the service now has plenty of money in the bank and has over 60,000 active users, its innovative interface and easy to use social curation features didn’t get near the buzz it deserved (though it’s worth noting that some people really don’t like the service’s interface). With even more social features and the ability to import all the links you share on Twitter, Pearltrees’ feature set made great strides this year. Hopefully, it’ll get a bit more buzz next year, as using it gets more fun the more people join in.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps.jpg

I admit, this is an odd choice given the size of the Microsoft Office empire, but at least in the tech blogging world, most people tend to underestimate Microsoft’s products and prefer to push Google’s offering instead. In this case, the new Microsoft Office Web apps are far ahead of Google’s offerings and offer (no surprise) better compatibility and – and this is the biggest reason for me – better document fidelity. When I export a file to Google Docs, I never quite know what will happen to it when I export it again. With the Office Web Apps, the documents – with few exceptions – remain perfectly intact as I move them in and out of the Web apps.

EchoEcho

EchoEcho.jpg

With all the focus on check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla this year (though this hype has died down quite a bit by now), location apps with real utility remained a bit under the radar this year. Among those location-based apps that are actually useful (beyond collecting boy scout-style badges), EchoEcho is one of my perennial favorites. Available on virtually every platform, EchoEcho allows you to quickly and privately exchange your location with a contact. It’s simple, works and oh so useful. For more background, see my ReadWriteWeb review of the EchoEcho iPhone app from early 2010.



7:00 am