For Google, the mission is clear:  Recruit Microsoft users to the G side. Among their recent efforts is Cloud Connect, a plugin that syncs Microsoft Office with Google Docs, essentially keeping both the cloud and local files the same. This week the tool moved from limited beta to general release in hopes of taking Microsoft down a peg or two. 

Old Tricks, New Solution

If you missed the beta release, here's a quick overview via the official Google announcement:

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is now available to download for all Google Apps domains. With this plugin, you can now share, backup and simultaneously edit Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents with co-workers without the need for sending attachments back and forth.

Features include:

  • Simultaneous editing for Word, PowerPoint and Excel files when using Microsoft Office.
  • Google Docs sharing URLs for each Microsoft Office file.
  • Revision history for Microsoft Office files, stored in Google Docs.
  • Offline editing with smart synchronization of offline changes.
  • No Microsoft Office upgrade or SharePoint deployment required.

Test Running Google

The initial release of Cloud Connect strategically took place at the same time Microsoft announced Office 2010. Google hoped Microsoft users looking to save money would prefer the Internet giant's cost-effective alternative.

In order to sweeten the pot this time around, Google is launching a 90-day “Appsperience” program, which allows companies to test run the Google Docs experience for a cheaper rate. Participating companies will have to pay US$ 7,000 if they've less than 500 employees and US$ 15,000 for more. Shelling out dough will grant the use of Apps as well as access to a support network and a new analytics dashboard that compares usage in the cloud against usage on legacy apps.

Still, Google Docs isn't for everyone. SharePoint in comparison is about more -- document collaboration and enterprise collaboration -- and will likely remain a top choice for large organizations. However, if you've been on fence about Google Apps, it sure is easy to switch over with very little commitment.