Office 365 vs. Google Apps: The InfoWorld review
With Office 365 now available in final form, here's what you need to know to decide if Office 365 or Google Apps (or neither) is right for your organizationFollow @woodyleonhard
Ease-of-use: Familiarity breeds comfort
When you're talking about ease-of-use from the end-user standpoint, Microsoft has an unfair advantage. When users encounter an Office alternative, they're not likely to appreciate some upstart's attempt to reinvent the UI (Microsoft has done enough of that already).
The burden is on Google Apps to create an inviting user experience, and for the most part users will find it a snap to learn their way around the core apps and get productive -- and with fewer features, there's less to learn. But there's one major hurdle: Gmail. We can debate the relative merits of Outlook (or OWA) and Gmail forever, but for the typical user who has invested months of blood, sweat, and tears on learning Outlook, the transition to Gmail can be traumatic.
The Gmail interface is completely different, whereas the latest version of Outlook Web Access (see Figure 3) pretty closely resembles Outlook on the desktop. Gmail (see Figure 4) packs a lot more information into a smaller area and puts the most common functions in completely different places. Advanced users may prefer the Gmail layout, but most others will prefer the devil they know.
In my experience, the second biggest ease-of-use problem is coherence. As you can see from the features list, Microsoft has packaged all of its services under one big umbrella. The various components work similarly -- although by no means identically. Google's apps, by contrast, consist of a hodgepodge of programs and services, with different pedigrees, names, operating procedures, restrictions, licensing, and packaging. All of that leads to user confusion, such as: "Should I use Google Voice or Google Talk or Google Chat, or just call you on Gmail?"
Both companies need to improve the integration of disparate pieces of their packages. I dread to think how Microsoft will integrate Skype into its current offerings.
I give Microsoft an 8 for ease-of-use, assuming you come from an Outlook shop. Primarily because of the learning curve for Gmail and the other Google Apps and the fragmentation of Google offerings, I give Google a 7. Remember, this rating applies to end-users -- not to administrators.
Administration: Complexity vs. simplicity
I wrote about administration complexity with Office 365 in my Office 365 beta preview. InfoWorld's J. Peter Bruzzese also had problems with the Office 365 beta. In short, the admin sequences are confusing, with many blind alleys that are impossible to escape. As best as I can tell, those problems persist in the shipping Office 365 admin panels.
Also, if you use Active Directory, you face some serious challenges synchronizing with Office 365 (see Microsoft's Active Directory synchronization road map). Adding your domain to Office 365 can be tricky. Microsoft does, however, have a tool to help with changing to single sign-on, making it much easier for your users to access Office 365 using Active Directory Federation Services.