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10 Bloodiest Battles Microsoft and Google Fought in 2010

Consumer e-mail and search

While Microsoft dominates enterprise e-mail and productivity, the battle between Microsoft's Hotmail and Gmail has been nip and tuck, with each webmail service claiming more than 40 million U.S. users. Microsoft overhauled Hotmail this year with new online editing capabilities for Office documents, and more than two dozen other enhancements for business and home users.

When it comes to Internet search, Google claims about two-thirds of the market, but Microsoft is plotting to improve Bing's standing by partnering with both Facebook and Yahoo.

Battle for government customers

Google and Microsoft are both going after the lucrative government market for e-mail and office productivity tools, with Google signing up the City of Los Angeles and the U.S. General Services Administration, while Microsoft just announced a 120,000-user cloud deal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As mentioned previously, Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interior "after the agency solicited bids for cloud-based e-mail and messaging services [while] specifying that bidders must use Microsoft products," the IDG News Service reported in November.

One key to winning government business is complying with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Microsoft recently gained FISMA certification for its cloud computing data centers, six months after Google, but is still waiting for FISMA approval for hosted Exchange and SharePoint.

The war of words

Finally, let's take a look at the war of words waged by Microsoft and Google as they try to win the battle of public perception. In May, a Google executive said Microsoft was already too far behind in the cloud apps market, while in November Microsoft said Google is failing in the enterprise.

Google seems to recognize that business customers aren't ready to give up Microsoft just yet, and has built several products specifically to plug gaps in Microsoft tools. For example, Google built a Gmail message continuity service to make e-mail work during Exchange outages, and "Chrome Frame" to bring pre-IE9 versions of Internet Explorer into the modern age. (Microsoft scoffed that Chrome Frame simply doubles the attack surface of IE8.)

Google has a few successes to crow about when it comes to swaying public opinion. One survey named Google the "world's most attractive employer," with Microsoft ranked seventh, and in August Google surpassed Microsoft in an annual Japanese survey of corporate brand perception. Google could even pass Microsoft in market capitalization, as Apple did earlier this year, some observers are speculating.

While a typical IT pro probably deals with Microsoft products more than Google's, consumers may be more familiar with Google's messaging because of the way the media covers the companies. According to the Pew Research Center, 11.4% of technology stories focus on Google (compared with 15.1% for Apple) while only 3% focus on Microsoft.

Now that 2010 is almost over, we can look forward to the Microsoft-Google rivalry ratcheting up even more in 2011.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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