Windows+Office vs. Google Apps+Chromebook

Personally I don’t like most Microsoft’s products, even their most important one – Windows. After using MacBook Pro for several months, I found it’s hard to go back to the Windows platform : the shabby search capability and the awkward UI on Windows 8 often drive me mad. Honestly, Mac OSX is the best desktop Operating System that I ever met. With an excellent desktop UI plus Linux-compatible core, OSX is far user friendly, especially programmer friendly than Windows.

However, for MS Office, I must admit that it is one of the few excellent products made by Microsoft. Combined with Active Directory architecture, Server softwares like Exchange, SharePoint, it can handle almost all office work nicely and efficiently. Today, most companies use MS Office solution to handle their daily office work and  are happy with that. I don’t see any strong competitors of Microsoft in this field. ( Actually, there are a few other options, but none of them can really compete with Microsoft Office Suit.)

Things might change in the future. Microsoft now need to seriously consider the threat from Google Apps + Chromebook, which offers a lightweight office solution with much cheaper cost and better collaboration. Based on Google’s statement, there are already more than 5 million businesses on Google Apps, and the number is still increasing fast. At the same time, Chromebook has become the most popular notebook in Amazon. At least, I know several of my friends went Chromebook and has no plan to go back to Windows.

For most companies, Google Apps platform is already good enough to handle their office job nicely, and cheaper! Here I made a simple comparison between Microsoft office solution and Google Apps solution.

To setup the Microsoft Office environment:

  1.  A small data center, which requires a physical place with good security.
  2.  Several Windows Servers, like Domain Controller, Exchanges Server, Web Server, Database Server, Security Server …. They are expensive on both hardware and software!
  3. Desktops or laptops with Windows and Office.
  4. An IT group to maintain the above hardware and software.

This solution is a classical solution for most companies, and usually it works great. However, there is one problem: the expense! Though the cost may differ for different type and different size of companies,  it does cost a fortune to set all things up. Not every company can afford that. To lower the expense, some companies have no choice but unwisely lower the security and the maintenance cost, which may cause disastrous results in the future.
To setup a Google Apps working environment:

  1. 50 bucks for each employee each year.
  2. One Chromebook for each employee. The price of a Chromebook is much cheaper than that of a normal desktop or laptop.

See, Google’s cloud solution is A LOT cheaper!  Using Google’s solution, you can setup a similar office working environment for your company with much less money.
Some companies still worry about that the features of Google Apps cannot match Microsoft’s solution. However, based on my experience (might not right), this shouldn’t be the major concern. Google Apps covers most features, if not all, of Microsoft Office solution, with better collaboration capability. The biggest concern to move to Google Apps should be the migration cost, because this migration requires to retrain all employees for the new system and take the risk of data lost during the migration. For companies that have already invested in Microsoft solutions and have been accustomed to that environment, I don’t see any good reason to move to Google Apps.

Will Google Apps beat Microsoft Office? Maybe not in the next few years. However, it may happen in the future, with a great possibility.