Evidence of Google Winning The Generational Shift Over Microsoft

An email was forwarded to me this morning that had the following text in it (I’ve anonymized “The College” but it’s a large, well-regarded four year university.)

The College is Going Google! What does this mean? How will it impact teaching and learning at The College? Many K-12 school districts are using Google Apps for Education, providing their students with access to Google productivity tools as early as primary school. Students coming to The College in the next five years may never have opened Microsoft Word, but will be familiar with sharing, collaborating, and publishing with Google tools. Are you ready?

I spend time at a few universities, including MIT and CU Boulder. I’m teaching a class this semester at CU Boulder with Phil Weiser and Brad Bernthal called “Philosophy of Entrepreneurship.” We had our first class last week – Brad Bernthal led so Phil and I sat in the back. I noticed a bunch of students with their email open during class – almost every one of them was using Gmail.

A meme went around a few years ago that kids using Facebook would never use email and that Facebook would replace Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. This never really made sense to me, especially since I’d already heard that text messaging would replace email, and then I heard that X would replace email, and now it was going to be Facebook. As much as email frustrates us, it’s still by far the most ubiquitous comm channel.

But as someone who switched completely from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps a few years ago, it seemed clear to me that Microsoft was going to come under incredible pressure on this vector. Office 365 was one of Microsoft’s reactions to this, but I still haven’t met any company that uses Office 365 as it’s primary infrastructure, although Microsoft has a nice site called NowOnOffice365.com that lists a bunch.

Now, it appears that Google is taking a page from the Apple playbook and focusing on higher education. Apple did this magnificently in the 1980’s when I was in college and did this again in the past decade. Jobs was always focused on universities – I still remember “computers are bicycles for the mind” and the 50% discount off of retail promotion that MIT had in 1984 or 1985.

I don’t focus on market share dynamics (I’m sure there are teams of people at Microsoft and Google focused on this) but the anecdotal evidence I’m seeing is powerful. And when The College switches to Google Apps because the students coming to The College are already well steeped in it and “may have never opened Microsoft Word”, something really interesting is going on.

If your organization is on Office 365, I’d love to hear from you in the comments to understand how you are using it. Are you using document collaboration via SkyDrive, or just Office 365 as the backend service for Email instead of Exchange?

If you are a college student using Microsoft Outlook instead of Gmail, tell me why.

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  • I know three organizations that are using 365. One is an international start-up that hired some former Microsoft employees. One is a non-profit. The third is a startup led by people in their 40’s but it was the 20 somethings in the company who selected 365. All three organizations focus on physical products rather than Internet-based solutions. All three had concern about data ownership, need to collaborate with “real” Word documents. All need professionals to manage their 365. BUT all three still have to use Google anyway because partner organizations use it for document collaboration. Seems to me that Google Apps has become a default. Even if an organization is using 365, they still have to use Google docs in some way because they’re going to be collaborating with other organizations that use it. It does not work the other way round.

    • Great example – very interesting that (a) they need outside support for 365 and (b) they still need to use Google for collaboration.

      • The 365 administrative interface is actually really good, better looking than the Google Apps admin interface. Both need a level of reasonable competence to manage properly. But for sharing, yes, amazing how Google is now the default for collaboration. The interface for Sharepoint and the new SkyDrive is SO obscure that it’s impossible to figure out without professional help.

    • I used to work for a non-profit. The higher ups wanted Microsoft. So I imagine that would be the case here?

      • 365 was the recommended solution by an outside provider (actually, what they wanted of course was an in-house Exchange server because that would provide the most $$ to them in service fees, but to their credit they didn’t push for it). Senior leadership swayed by the mystique of Sharepoint and by Outlook integration.

  • Andrew Pevsner

    At the startup where I currently find myself expending nearly all of my passionate energy, we use the Google ecosystem for just about everything.

    Earlier this week, one of my colleagues asked me, “What would you be able to get done if Google’s servers went down today?”

    The answer is somewhat frightening and eye-opening: close to nothing.

    99% of my important correspondences happen via gmail. 90% of the work that is done in collaboration happens via Google Drive. Calendar, tasks, etc–all Google.

    Additionally, the vast majority of the work that takes place outside of the Google ecosystem takes place in applications like Keynote and Photoshop; sharing and collaborating for such projects happens via dropbox.

    For us (on the biz side), when Google isn’t the product/service of choice, Microsoft is the replacement about 1% of the time.

    (The dev team collaborates via Google+ Hangouts more than any other medium. Even though Skype had a massive head start in this space, we never use it…I’m interested to see if anyone else uses Skype over Google+ for work-related collaboration, screen sharing, etc??)

  • @FakeBradFeld

    At my company, we use Office 365 with Skydrive. First, Skydrive is much more flexible than Dropbox if you want to sync your files across computers – for example, sync my work folder to my work laptop only, sync all folders (work and personal) to my home office desktop. With Office365, I get the option of opening a doc/xls/ppt in a web app in the browser or using my local version of Office (if available). If I want to make a quick change I can do so on my tablet with 365, whereas with G-Drive I would have to download, open in Office, save, upload. Microsoft also has a great app for Android.

    Also, Google Spreadsheets is still a joke so I cannot imagine a business student using this over Excel.

    • How big is the company that you work at?

      • @FakeBradFeld

        30-35 people.

    • rosscarlson

      Not meaning to argue – but I’m not seeing the sync difference between Skydrive and Dropbox? I can do the same in Dropbox, called “selective sync”. That way my machine at home can sync a folder I share with my mom but my work PC doesn’t. Also does the opening between the web/Office happen automatically or do you right-click and decide which app to open?

      • @FakeBradFeld

        You have a good reason to argue. Looks like my sentence was incomplete – not only can you selective sync but you can also have access to the contents of your entire hard drive on your other computers.

        When I am using the Skydrive web interface I choose the method/app I want to use to open. If I am on my PC using the locally synced Skydrive folder it will automatically use the default program for that file.

  • James Talbot

    I have worked on geographically distributed teams for several years. We have used Google apps for years, but we always used Skype or Adobe Connect for collaboration meetings. Not too long ago Microsoft moved the desktop sharing feature of Skype under the pay-to-use category without warning. We didn’t have time to get everyone a premium account in the middle of our meeting. Someone suggested we try Google Hangouts and we haven’t looked back.

    • Yes, I saw this recently:

      Not too long ago Microsoft moved the desktop sharing feature of Skype under the pay-to-use category without warning.

      Big mistake. There are so many free screen-sharing tools out there. Join.me is my personal favorite. Roger McNamee recently said on Charlie Rose that Microsoft ought to build a Skype phone. That would make sense.

      I honestly don’t know why Microsoft does half the things it does. No wonder it is losing ground.

  • There is a rupture / chasm of MS Office. It has started with email, now Word , next Power Point and and somewhere down the road Excel.

  • I downloaded the Google Drive apps for iPad and iPhone a week or two ago. Really really impressed with the simple design and presentation. I’m not a huge fan of the online Google Spreadsheet app — I’ve been using Excel since version 4 — but the iPad version of GDrive means I might give it a try again.

  • They are losing the war on tablets also. There will be 3 billion more users coming online this decade, mostly on cheap Android devices. If Microsoft wasn’t trying to defend its old business model, it would have given Windows 8/RT away so that these devices used it instead. Then it could have sold low-priced subscriptions to its many products. It would have had billions of new users doing Microsoft searches and hundreds of millions eventually scaling up to Microsoft Apps. Now Microsoft is going to become increasingly irrelevant.

    And by the way, Microsoft is giving Office 2013 away to students and faculty for a price of $10. That is how desperate they are not to lose schools.

    • Well said. Clay Christiansen’s Innovators Dilemma is play out largely here.

    • MS is toast

      I don’t see why devices would use RT instead of Android. I wouldn’t choose an RT tablet over an identical Android tablet, even if it was cheaper. I don’t know who would. Some, I suppose.

    • They are? In that case I should check it out. Last time I checked it wasn’t. Or maybe that’s just in the States, I suppose.

  • Spot on and good that you’re asking these questions Brad. I like Windows Phone a lot generally and come from the gaming space (real gaming, not casual/web). However Microsoft is still alienating potential users, customers and their own talent left right and center. The key problem is that Microsoft telling you how you’ll use your software that you’ll pay. This is not flying in the face of competition from everyone and their dog now building software in line with how the users actually want to use them and do things.

    For example, Zune basically tells you that you need to “properly” tag all your mp3’s etc and if you have anything independent or not tagged yourself, forget about organizing while ignoring that most people haven’t and won’t be spending time on that crap, have collections going far back before better ripping tools came along etc and will just dump things in simple folders. Another is Windows 8 and forcing metro on the desktop for no good reason other than making it visible to Joe Public, another horrible move. Forcing Windows Phone 8 development on Windows 8 is also. The kernel may be different but a company with far less money to just piss away on bullying would have adapted to what the market was screaming at them and just allowed development on Windows 7 and just dynamically linked core libraries at compile time.

    They are pissing all their time and development away on cloning me-too products just for the sake of not having to pay/depend on outside ecosystem but they are forgetting their roots. Google is just making things easier and providing the value add / stripping away bloat which is how Microsoft got its start and what they used to do. IBM dictated what the users wanted and how they were going to use it, just like Microsoft does today. Google’s collaboration is this generation’s version of “embrace-extend-extinguish”

  • Statspotting.com

    I think what Microsoft got wrong, was that most people would just need the top 10 features of the software that it was making, and this fact alone meant that someone else with a focus on providing more convenience and lower cost, and a dependable brand name, just providing these 10 features, would win in the market.

  • StevenHB

    This seems like a shift that’s been happening for a long time. My older daughter, now a junior at Brandeis, tells me (effectively) that Brandeis uses a white-labeled version of gmail for student email accounts. I imagine that there are many other schools doing likewise.

    I don’t think that the community of college students sees a lot of value in the offline ability that comes with Outlook. They’re *always* connected, particularly on campus and they don’t use email nearly as much as they use text messages (which is true for high schoolers as well). Personally, I find the offline ability compelling, particularly when coupled with the X1 search engine for Outlook, which I’ve used since they did a co-branding with Yahoo.

  • Peter Baumgarten

    I am a student at a University that switched from Novell Groupwise to Google Apps, most other kids my age use gmail for personal use. Everyone also uses MS Office though, write the paper in Word, then email it to your self in gmail, and then print it out at a campus printer. I am a Libreoffice user my self and the only thing that Microsoft has going for it right now amongst kids my age is inertia. It’s what they always used, why switch?

  • felixc

    I work at a telecommunications company and I like to ask our recent college grad hires about the technology and social media they use.

    Hands down, they all use Google Docs for the vast majority of work and projects – though many will still keep a copy of Microsoft Office around, if they need it.

    The only exception the students who need Excel. That’s one area where the desktop app is still needed. Which makes sense since individual needs from Excel vary so much and there is a lot of deep functionality.

  • Actually, Facebook would have replaced email *if* Facebook didn’t forget their roots. As it happened, it totally forgot where it came from, lost focus, lost aim, and thought feeding its posts back to email was a good idea. It also split its inbox (so that people not on your own friend list can no longer contact you), screwed up Facebook-to-SMS gatewaying (how do you do email on a dumb phone? but I *could* do Facebook—not now), and made many many more similar mistakes. The result: Facebook messaging is completely irrelevant by now, and Facebook is the only entity responsible for its demise.

    • Alex Murphy

      Facebook could never replace email. Email has open standards, Facebook does not.No proprietary messaging system will ever replace an open standard.

  • Full disclosure: I’m selling Office 365. But I’m not here to say whether Google Apps or Office 365 is better. The organizations I see using Office 365 often start with mail (Exchange) but increasingly are drawn by SharePoint Online for collaboration and Lync for PC-PC calling and presence/IM. SharePoint has always had a reputation as being complex to administer and use, but I’m impressed with the work they’ve done to make setting up such things as a project site a drag-and-drop process. And Lync’s integration with mail, calling, video etc is being seen as a reasonable substitute for dedicated video, calling and similar solutions. Collaboration seems to be the driver, and these groups are looking for more than file sharing.

  • Maurice Walshe

    Obviosly there is a Jesuitical streak in Google then – as Ignatius Loyola said

    “Give me the boy until he is seven, and I will give you the man.”

    Funny how parents freak over sweet and drinks vendors like mc donalds pushing stuff in schools but tecnology companies seem to get a free ride

  • With downtime, poor calendar sharing (ask any Admin Assistnat), lots of spam, poor integration into desktop products and poor compatibility between Google Apps and Microsoft Apps (which DO still run the world, ask any Lawyer) Google’s perceived advance beyond Microsoft is going to crumble. Google is the next generation of intellectual superiority, they’re smart and you’re dumb. They don’t need to provide support because there software works 100% of the time.

    MS took the douche crown from IBM and now Google took it from MS. With a bit more humble pie going on (see Office, email, contacts, calendaring, Word/Excel/Powerpoint/Sharepoint all bundled in), I think MS is going to do well with Office365 and as I use the product for my personal domains, can tell you that it is rock solid, has GREAT calendar sharing/delegation, no spam, works great with Apple Mail, Outlook, iOS, Android and comes with web versions of Office which are 100% compatible.

    This piece posits a point a view, but it doesn’t reflect where MS and Google are going.

    • I don’t think Google has “lots of spam”; the amount of spam I experience is manageable. Rather I think its problem is miscategorizing non-spam as spam and not allowing users to feed this back to them. They seem to have locked themselves in an ivory tower and ignoring what’s actually happening out there.

  • Dave

    *Late to this topic* I understand how great Google is for almost all of your tasks from email to group video conference calls but can you briefly explain how you manage/sync all of your emails, calendars, contacts, etc. with the several Apple products which you noted such as MacBook Air and iPhone.

    I have tried this in the past for my iphone and MacBook and it just seemed like a lot of work so I stuck with iCloud which was much simpler, even though I use Gmail and several other google tools/apps.

    • I just use Settings: Mail-Contacts-Calendars. I then choose Exchange sync (ironically) auth my Gmail account, and turn on Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Voila – it all works.

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