Microsoft's small-business risk and opportunity

A survey of small businesses highlights the need for an SaaS-based Microsoft Office to combat Google Apps

A poll from SMB marketplace Accredited Supplier suggests that Microsoft risks losing Microsoft Office share among U.K. small businesses.

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Accredited Supplier conducted a survey of 1,400 existing Microsoft customers and found that nearly 15 percent of respondents were ready to switch to Google Apps. That clearly is the risk:

Respondents considering switching to Google Apps (from Microsoft Office):

13% Switching

29% Not aware of Google Apps

22% Undecided

36% Not switching

Source: Accredited Supplier, 2009

Now for the opportunity, which is unlikely to be news to Microsoft:

Preference for accessing business applications through a browser:

34% Prefer browser

28% Strongly prefer browser

12% No preference

8% Unsure

18% PC software

Source: Accredited Supplier, 2009

The reason that customers are considering the move to Google Apps appears to be linked to how the applications are accessed and interacted with. The published survey results do not point to dissatisfaction with Microsoft office or cost concerns, although these may be contributing factors. The data does show that respondents want a SaaS access mechanism to their business applications, office productive suites included.

Microsoft has been working on this problem for some time, and the existing Office Live Small Business offering is a step in the right direction. The missing piece with Office Live Small Business is the hosted office productivity applications. That missing piece is crucial, and Microsoft needs to fill it soon. Today, Office Live Small Business lets users share documents, but the actual editing of documents requires a desktop install of Microsoft Office. Microsoft knows this needs to change, least it cede its small business share to Google and others.

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p.s.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."