Google Goes After Microsoft And IBM By Making Google Apps For Work Free While Customers Still Under Competitor’s Contract

To acquire more Google Apps for Work customers, Google just announced a new promotion that’s a huge shot across Microsoft’s bow. The company says that it will give interested customers access to Google Apps for Work for free, while they’re still under an enterprise agreement (EA) with another provider. While Google didn’t call out Microsoft or IBM by name when making the announcement, it’s well understood that these are the top competitors for its Google Apps productivity suite and related tools.

In addition, Google directly references the two competitors on its “offer” page for the new promotion.

According to a Google blog post, the company will cover the fees associated with Google Apps for Work until the customer’s existing contract runs out. And it says it will chip in on some of the deployment costs following the earlier contract’s expiration, by also connecting the new customer with a Google for Work Partner.

The company claims that customers can see cost savings of up to 70 percent by switching. This figure is based on a basic Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, Google explains (PDF) on the Google Apps website.

There are some caveats, of course. Google is capping the amount it covers for deployment at $25 per user, so the cost to switch is not necessarily going to be “zero.” However, there will be no bill for Google Apps for Work until the prior EA runs out.

Microsoft, of course, has been making some fierce inroads of its own with its Office 365 software. For example, this summer it gained a huge win by signing up GE to deploy its platform to its more than 300,000 employees worldwide. GE, notably, had been one of the earlier customers to deploy Google Apps in years past. That meant Microsoft’s ability to bring them back to the fold was sort of a double punch for Google.

Google didn’t say how long this promotion would be available, but it’s only offered to those customers in the U.S. or Canada, at present. Meanwhile, the company says it’s working on bringing the offer to global markets in the future.

Google Apps for Work, which includes Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drive along with calendaring and communications tools like Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar, and more, as well as an IT dashboard for management, starts at $5 per user per month, or increases to $10 per user per month for unlimited storage space and “Vault,” a system for eDiscovery of emails, chats, docs and files.

By taking on the costs associated with an EA – a tool Microsoft uses to keep customers locked into contracts for longer periods of time in return for better pricing – Google is fighting back against one of Microsoft’s most powerful tools associated with retention.