Microsoft, a longtime player with its ubiquitous Office suite and Outlook/Exchange messaging and collaboration platform, is starting to react to this trend, although its software is still primarily designed to be installed on customers' own servers.
Currently, Google offers a free, ad-supported Apps version designed for individuals and very small businesses, and a fee-based version called Premier that is aimed at companies of all sizes and costs US$50 per user per year. That is considered an aggressive price versus the cost of comparable Microsoft software.
Although the individual and business versions share the same core applications, such as Gmail, word processor, calendar, spreadsheet and presentation programs, Apps Premier has a variety of IT management tools as well as APIs (application programming interfaces) for integration with other software.
"Our intention is to really put more value at that price point and offer some amazing proposition to companies," said Dave Girouard, president of Google's Enterprise unit, at the Pacific Crest Technology Leadership Forum.