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Gartner Research Vice President Jeffrey Mann has added another snarl to the Microsoft versus Google brawl in the productivity space.

He also took time to fire at IBM’s SocialBusiness for the SmartCloud, calling it a "nice try" that is unlikely to catch on.

Speaking at the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration summit in London today, he pointed out that Microsoft, which already has the lion’s share of the market, is going to increase its presence at the expense of other players.

Microsoft’s Dominant Position

In all fairness, there is nothing particularly controversial about his statements, which he made at this morning’s seminar. Anyone who has been following the competition in this space is aware that Google can’t really shake a stick at Microsoft here, despite all its recent functional improvements.

But it’s not nice to be told that your competitor is going to be gobbling up your customers, particularly when your competitor throws around as much weight around as Microsoft.

It’s not that Google or the other denizens of the productivity space are doing a bad job. It's just that Office and Office365 have a foothold in the enterprise that is unlikely to be dislodged any time soon. In addition, the new pricing plans Microsoft has introduced are going to make that foothold even stronger. They are likely to make Office 365 a feasible alternative in the small-to-medium sized space (SMB), which has traditionally belonged to Google.

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Move To The Cloud?

The objective of this morning’s session was to examine the potential of cloud office suites, as well as the merits of moving work to the cloud.

Mann said many enterprises are still a little unclear about what vendors or research organizations mean when they talk about office suites. They should not be confused with Microsoft Office, he added. Rather, they should be regarded as productivity suites that are used for office work.

At the moment, cloud office suites are only a minority choice as organizations wrestle with security and data storage. But that percentage will grow to about 30 percent by 2017 and close to 60 percent by 2022.

But not all organizations will want to go to the cloud for a number of reasons, including the fact many still want and need to control where their cloud-based data is stored.

For at least the foreseeable future, companies like Microsoft that are producing office suites out-of-the-box will continue to support them and offer them to cloud shy clients.

Microsoft was the first vendor to produce what might be described as a comprehensive office suite, but times have changed. Today, the tools we use to get work done have grown enormously to include:

  • Personal and team productivity tools
  • Communication tools including email, instant messaging
  • Collaboration tools for team projects
  • File and document sharing
  • Social tools networking across the enterprise

There are also a number of emerging technologies like virtual assistants, language translation, e-ink and analytics that will be pushed under this same umbrella.

Cloud Suite Advantages, Disadvantages

The bottom line here is that productivity suites are increasingly expected to support work everywhere and every way we do work, including messaging, blog posts, phone and talk from laptops, mobile devices and tablets.

The list is still evolving. To make these suites feasible, they will have to be sourced from the cloud, Mann said. He listed the advantages as follows:

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While cloud computing can improve productivity suites through the provision of things like disaster recovery, automatic updates, single sign-on and smart machine access, there are disadvantages. Things could actually get worse for users:

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It is still early days in the cloud market so it is impossible to say where this all will go.  In addition, there is still a lot of mistrust of the cloud out there and vendors will have to overcome both real and imaginary issues, particularly around legal and security considerations.