The SME sector could be the next battleground for Microsoft and Google to fight over e-mail provision market share.
As organisations evaluate e-mail strategies over the next five years, Microsoft and Google will compete for the bulk of the market, says analyst Forrester Research. This is due to cloud-based e-mail being the entry point to a deeper and more profitable collaboration deal for vendors.
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"Microsoft and Google are happy to outbid each other to win your e-mail business because they know there's more money to be made in conferencing, team sites, videoconferencing and social software. We estimate that for every dollar you spend on cloud e-mail, you'll wind up spending $3 to $10 on other cloud collaboration and communications services," said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester.
Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Google are rapidly approaching feature and price parity in their e-mail offerings, but Microsoft and Google are in the lead with customers, he said.
"There's no doubt in our minds that e-mail will be the first successful large-scale cloud application. The reasons are simple: e-mail in the cloud is cheaper, it will evolve faster, and it's a great test bed to master the issues of cloud computing providers," said Schadler.
Research from Forrester found that in 2009, 76% of US employees in small companies used Outlook for e-mail. However, Google has been building its direct sales organisation and partner channel aggressively over the past three years - claiming more than two million businesses use its Google Apps Enterprise Edition product.
"Google is threatening that franchise, which is what has propelled Microsoft aggressively into the cloud e-mail market," added Schadler.
|Five predictions for cloud-based e-mail|
|Source: Forrester Research|