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Microsoft has the broadest set of tools for real-time communications

Here at Microsoft, we pride ourselves on having the broadest definition of productivity, with no compromises. That is why our vision for real-time communications and collaboration is to connect people from the living room to the boardroom, with Lync and Skype offering the most robust set of communications options that businesses need and consumers love. Google Hangouts was launched to improve “Google’s real-time communication services.” However, after looking at Hangouts more closely, here are five reasons in particular why Microsoft has the broadest set of tools for real-time communication.

1. Microsoft offers both a consumer and an enterprise-grade service.

Microsoft offers both consumer-grade and enterprise-class services to our customers. With over 300 million connected users, Skype has one of the largest communities on the planet. Microsoft also offers Lync Online as part of Office 365, and it is a communication service that responds to the security, compliance, and communication needs of large organizations. Skype and Lync connect to each other – so users on Skype can call users on Lync and vice-versa.   

Google offers a single consumer-grade communication service that lacks enterprise features that many businesses require. From its marketing to its feature set, Hangouts was designed with consumers in mind, not businesses. When the new Hangouts service was announced at Google I/O in May, Google Apps for Businesses wasn’t even mentioned. The focus was on how Hangouts connects you “with the people you love” — not the people with whom you do business. The scenario that exemplifies the value of Hangouts is a wedding engagement announcement, not team collaboration or better business meetings. The most discussed features in Hangouts are easy photo sharing and emoticons (“emoji”) that “make conversations more fun.” Paired with features like Google Effects, which lets you add animated pirate hats and snorkeling masks to your face during video conferences, Google’s focus is clearly not the business experience with Google Apps.

By contrast, Office 365 and Lync Online were designed from the ground up with a focus on what enterprises expect from their unified communications platform. Employees get a rich set of business-appropriate features, such as presenting directly from PowerPoint into a Lync meeting, sharing robust meeting notes in OneNote with meeting details automatically populated by Lync, sharing specific applications, whiteboarding, and choosing an optimal arrangement of meeting participants and content. Organizations benefit from the robustness of capabilities such as administration with Active Directory, archiving and compliance tools, integration with Microsoft Office, extensibility from public APIs based on industry-standard technology, and interoperability with other systems and devices (from headsets to Lync Room Systems).

2. Microsoft provides the best support and security options.

Office 365 provides 24/7 technical support and the added benefits of a 99.9% financially backed uptime guarantee for all of its services, including Lync. A customer using Lync Online and Office 365 can take advantage of a broad range of support options, starting from the basic one-by-one incident support, to comprehensive and ongoing support through Microsoft Premier Support programs. This enables customers to trust Microsoft to be there and help when something needs troubleshooting or fixing.

On the other hand, Hangouts is a feature in Google+, and Google+ is not a core service of Google Apps – it is considered an additional service. That means Hangouts is not supported under Google’s Technical Support Services Guidelines, and it is not covered by any support or service level agreement. What if you have a problem with Hangouts? You only get to check Google’s web help center or help forums. What if you have a favorite communications feature you like to use in a certain way? Google might change your experience without warning and force you to use it differently.

Beyond just Google’s planned changes, what if Hangouts has an outage? Hangouts is not on the Google Apps Status Dashboard so your organization doesn’t have visibility into the issue. And since Hangouts is not protected as part of the SLA, Google doesn’t have a financial responsibility to get you back online quickly, nor an obligation to compensate you for downtime with service credits. You just don’t know what will happen, whether on purpose or unintentional, with the Hangouts service.

3. Microsoft lets you talk to the broadest set of users on the planet.

Sometimes in the course of doing business, your enterprise’s partners, vendors, and customers don’t have the same infrastructure as you do. Office 365 and Lync allow you to connect with Lync users inside and outside of your company whether they have Lync installed or not. You can also include anybody with an HTML5 browser in the rich Lync meeting experience (including group video and content sharing). And as mentioned earlier, any Lync user can connect with the over 300 million connected Skype users as well. Imagine the possibilities: collaborating on a joint marketing plan with a partner. Conducting status calls with a small business vendor you’re working with. Explaining your medical diagnosis to a patient and discussing their case.  Or simply getting in touch with your family while you’re on a business trip. Office 365 and Lync let you collaborate naturally, seamlessly across borders, with more options.

If you use Google Apps for Business, Hangouts only lets you collaborate with other users who also have Hangouts. And you only get the premium Hangouts web experience if you use the Chrome Browser.

4. Microsoft has a more comprehensive feature set.

While Hangouts On Air allows public audiences to watch a Hangout via YouTube, only up to 15 people can actually participate in the video chat itself and have the full Hangouts collaborative experience. Everybody else is just a viewer. But we know that in many enterprises, teams are larger than 15 people, and more than 15 people need to collaborate on content in real time with each other. That is the true power of real time communications with the cloud. Office 365 and Lync support fully participatory experiences for 250 people in virtual meetings. Everybody — not just a small handful of people — gets the full power of interactive presentations, content sharing, instant messaging, voice, and video. That means everybody can speak up in that weekly status meeting, or comment on those latest product designs, or ask questions about that graph in a business report. Office 365 and Lync don’t just make you watch a broadcast — you can be in the “studio” itself.

5. Microsoft has robust security and compliance.

Organizations often wish to enforce policies for collaborating with and sending information outside the company. That is why with Office 365 and Lync, not only can you turn off Lync-Skype connectivity if you wish, but all Lync instant message conversations can be archived to Exchange regardless of user behavior. Office 365 lets IT enforce its policies to help keep the organization safe and secure.

However, if you’re using Google Hangouts, “there is no setting that prevents Hangouts with users outside your domain [and] Hangouts does not yet support warnings informing users that they’re messaging outside of the domain.” That means with Hangouts, IT must rely upon users to check and abide by company policy for external communication. But, as we’ve seen with a similar lack of enforcement capabilities for Google+ posts, employees sometimes make mistakes with external communication. This can be risky for organizations, and that’s why IT should be able to enforce external collaboration policies. But with Hangouts, you can’t.

What if your company wants to archive all instant message conversations? Sorry, with Hangouts, users can still communicate off the record by turning off message history. So much for compliance. And speaking of compliance, the new Hangouts is not compatible with Vault. So organizations face a costly tradeoff and have to give up Vault’s email archiving and e-discovery capabilities in order to get the new Hangouts.

Microsoft’s approach — from the living room to the boardroom.

We at Microsoft offer the best of both worlds — communications products that serve consumers, small businesses of all sizes, and enterprises. We believe people are users both at home and at work, so we believe in providing solutions that scale to the needs and requirements of both the living room and the boardroom, not just building a single product for both. Our business product, Lync Online with Office 365, provides the features, seamless integration, management capabilities, and robustness that enterprises expect when it comes to business productivity. We are excited for you to give Lync a try in your enterprise so you can collaborate effectively with a product designed with your business needs in mind.

 

 — David Alexander, @MSFTDavid, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Office 365