Google has begun a campaign that effectively seeks to white-ant Microsoft by moving into the business software market, starting with a set of Web programs for e-mail, scheduling and communications.

The leap beyond Google’s search and advertising agenda comes as Microsoft prepares to upgrade its two cash machines, Windows and Office. Google will knit programs it already offers separately.

The Web programs – under the name Google Apps for Your Domain – will be free to small businesses, universities and non-profit businesses. Later, Google said it will expand the offer to serve bigger corporations and government agencies.

Where it differs from Microsoft’s suites and those of traditional business software suppliers is that Google will host the applications and data in its worldwide data centres. Having to install and maintain software in your own system is often more expensive than the software itself, Google argues.

“If we do it right, we get the best of both worlds – very consumer-friendly software, but also low-cost business applications,” said Dave Girouard, GM of Google’s enterprise division, which sells search software to companies.

Initial apps are Gmail Web e-mail; the Google Talk instant message and Web phone-calling service; group scheduling on Google Calendar; and Google Page Creator, for Web page design.

The Writely word processor and Google Spread-sheet are candidates for future inclusion in Google Apps, Girouard said.

Anticipating Google’s moves, Microsoft has announced Windows Live – Web software for small business and consumers. But Microsoft’s unwillingness to deliver its software until it is fully baked gives Google an opening to win adherents to its approach, research firm IDC says.

Girouard claims the Google Apps platform is not designed to replace Microsoft’s core software. “This platform isn’t by any means an alternative to Windows,” Girouard said.

“We are not really out there to eliminate any applications. We are looking to introduce new ways to solve problems people have been having for years.”


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