While Google Apps may not be a knockout threat to Microsoft's enterprise business this year, a cloud apps battle continues to brew between the two companies. Google and Microsoft are the forerunners in this competition, but other rivalsare nipping on their heels.
Here's a quick look at IBM's Lotus Symphony and Lotus Live, Zoho's suite of cloud apps and OpenOffice.org's offerings.
Lotus Symphony, a set of free productivity tools, includes documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Because it is based on the Open Document Format standard, you're not locked into proprietary file formats, software licensing agreements and upgrades. Unlike Google Docs, however, your files are saved on your desktop--not in the cloud--thus they're only available to you from your computer.
[For more, check out CIO.com's cloud app bible:"Cloud App Wars: Microsoft vs. Google."]
Lotus Symphony's Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations tools each include many features similar to what you'd see in Google Docs or Microsoft Office. It also supports a variety of file formats and has the ability to export documents to PDFs for sharing purposes.
LotusLive is IBM's suite of online collaboration and social networking services--similar to the Google Apps suite--for your business, hosted in the cloud. Of the six tools included in the suite, you can pick and choose which ones you'd like to adopt.
LotusLive Meetings lets you give presentations to up to 1,000 guests via the Web. Pricing ranges from $6 to $39 per month, per user.
LotusLive Events helps you manage events registrations; host your event and follow up with post-event analysis; e-mail reminders generate automatically. Pricing starts at $79 per month, per user.
LotusLive Connections is part address book, part real-time collaboration tool. You can store and share documents, presentations, bookmarks and content collections; track a meeting to-do list; brainstorm ideas; and talk with business contacts and colleagues via instant messaging. LotusLive Connections starts at $6 per month, per user.
Lotus Engage, is an integrated suite of collaboration tools, that combines your social network with Web conferencing and collaboration capabilities (storing and sharing, instant messaging and activity management). Pricing ranges from $8 to $46 per month, per user.
LotusLive Notes,a hosted e-mail solution for businesses, includes customizable widgets that can recognize specific patterns of text in Lotus Notes documents and security features. Web-based e-mail starts at $9 per month, per user. Note that there is a 1,000 user purchase requirement per company for the initial purchase.
LotusLive iNotes is a Web-based version of Notes. Pricing starts at $3 per month, per user. You can also choose to bundle LotusLive Connections and LotusLive iNotes for $7 per month, per user.
Zoho has an extensive suite of productivity and business applications--more than 20 in total. Some of these apps are free for public use, while others charge a subscription fee for businesses. When you use a Zoho application, your documents and data are stored online on Zoho's servers. These servers, Zoho says, are located in secure data centers with multiple levels of restrictions for access.
Some of Zoho's tools include: e-mail, a word processor, spreadsheets, a presentation tool, a note-taker tool, wiki, instant messenger, a CRM solution, project management software, an invoicing tool, an online reporting and business intelligence tool, a meeting scheduler and Zoho Marketplace, which is similar to the Google Apps Marketplace.
You can pick and choose the apps you want to use; they range in price for businesses from $3 per month to $175 per month.
Zoho also offers a platform called Zoho Business. This online platform aggregates a number of Zoho applications into one dashboard, so users can manage the services to which they have subscribed, as well view all documents.
OpenOffice.org is a free, cloud-based open-source project sponsored by Oracle. Because it is open-source, anyone can suggest improvements, fix bugs, report problems or request enhancements.
OpenOffice.org has a similar feel to Microsoft Office, and can read most file formats. It has six tools: Writer, its word processor; Calc, a spreadsheet tool; Impress, its presentation tool; Draw; Base, which lets you manipulate databases; and Math, which lets you create mathematical equations with a graphic user interface.
You cannot pick and choose which tools you want to download individually; they are all installed in one operation.