By Mike Knight

In this article, we take a brief look at the relative merits of Office 365 compared to Google Workspace and how Google’s recent introduction of features and greater integration have been aimed at challenging Microsoft 365’s dominant position. 

Google Workspace 

Many of us are likely to have started with a Gmail account and witnessed how, what was G Suite, has expanded over the years into offering a range of cloud-based software services from a single sign-in, e.g. Gmail, Photos, Drive, Meet, Calendar, Sheets, and more. G Suite was rebranded to Workspace in October 2020, back when collaborative home working became a necessity for many.

The name reflected the business focus and the idea that the apps are connected and more integrated with each other. Google, therefore, introduced new business-focused subscription options, i.e. ‘Business family,’ to tempt smaller businesses into trying its collaborative Google Workspace, and ‘Enterprise family’ for larger businesses. Although, at the time, Google’s communications focused asking existing G Suite legacy users to make the “transition,” it was also clearly setting up a service that would appeal to 365 users. 

New Feature 

Google’s recent announcement of a new feature, allowing Workspace users to edit Microsoft Office files offline from within Google Workspace’s productivity suite /G Suite indicates a clear competitive move to try and lure Microsoft 365 users over to Workspace. Although Google announced in 2019 that Workspace users could edit Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, and edit Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides in offline mode, the new feature rounds this off by enabling workspace users to work offline with Microsoft Office files on the desktop.  

Google states that the features “brings the collaboration benefits of Google Workspace to Microsoft Office files”, and highlights how users can edit, comment, and collaborate on Office files using Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline, with any changes made to files while offline syncing to Drive once a connection is restored. 

Some tech commentators see this latest feature as lowering the barriers to switching by potentially easing the transition between Microsoft and Google services. The feature may also directly appeal to business customers looking for an easier way to use key Microsoft 365 apps – e.g. Word, Excel and PowerPoint when working with clients and partners. 

Gmail Change Too 

Google has also recently changed Gmail to work better with its Workplace plans and allows for the kind of faster, more integrated experience that may be expected for a platform that aims to challenge 365. The change to the left-hand side panel allows users to quickly navigate between Gmail, Chat, Spaces and Meet.  

Is Workspace Really A Serious Threat To Microsoft 365? 

Microsoft still dominates the office software market, and a US-based OnePulse / TechRadar Pro survey from May showed that 58.2 per cent of businesses use Microsoft 365’s productivity suite, compared to only 15 per cent choosing Google Workspace. Also, Google’s figures in Q1 2022 showed revenue of $5 billion for its cloud services compared to Microsoft’s $15 billion for its productivity segment. 

Why Does Microsoft Office 365 Still Appear To Be More Appealing?

There may be several reasons why, despite a raft of new features and improvements to Workspace, Microsoft 365 is still such a popular choice for businesses. These could include: 

  • The risk, perceived complications, and costs of switching from the market leading, fully integrated platform that businesses may have used for many years. 

Although Workspace may have been seen as a potentially cheaper option, prices for Microsoft for many people may be cheaper, e.g. Microsoft 365 Essentials compared to Google Workspace Basic and the perceived value of Microsoft’s bigger businesses packages may be higher despite slightly higher prices. 

  • The flexibility that a mixing of licences with Microsoft may provide. 
  • The familiarity and experience with Microsoft apps in the marketplace – e.g. Word, Excel, and Outlook, which can help with recruitment and productivity. Companies may be more likely to find employees with a good working knowledge of Microsoft 365 compared to Google Workspace products. 
  • The rise of remote and now hybrid working drove the growth of Teams and, therefore, a continued loyalty to Microsoft, whereas Google Hangouts has not proven to be as popular, with many opting for Zoom instead. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Google has really increased investment in Workspace and introduced a large number of work-focused features and integration of its many products, especially since 2020, as a way to present Workspace as a serious alternative to Microsoft 365.

However, Microsoft has built up huge numbers of loyal users and remained the clear market leader in office computing over the years. With its cloud-based 365 and the growth of important collaborative elements such as Teams, it has continued its growth through the remote-working pandemic years and user figures show that it is still very much on top.

Although there are plenty of comparable features between Workspace and 365, and integration within Workspace and its breadth of services have increased, the costs and risks of switching from 365 to Workspace may appear too much for many businesses. For newer businesses, the re-assurance of choosing the most popular platform with its widely used apps like Word, Outlook, and Excel may also seem like the safest option, and Google still has a very long way to go to challenge Microsoft’s dominant market position. 

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