虽然听起来可能不像搜索、网页浏览器或手机那样吸引人，但将各种各样的办公应用程序转移到云端的需求在不断增长。正因为如此，本周二早晨，微软（Microsoft）发布了万众期待的在线生产力工具套件Office 365（它可谓业界最公开的秘密）。同时微软也在寻求一些大型电话公司的支持，向客户推销Office 365，这些公司与谷歌（Google）的关系有时并不和谐。
谷歌商业应用程序专为企业级用户定制，包括Gmail、谷歌日历、谷歌文档以及其它基于网络的应用程序，可谓Office 365最大的对手。谷歌应用程序产品经理沙恩•辛哈表示，谷歌的应用程序在各种不同操作系统和设备上的表现更出色，相比微软Office 365，谷歌提供的定价方案更为简洁而且价格也更低廉。
微软宣称过去几个月，有20万测试客户注册了Office 365，其中70%是中小企业。对于许多资金不足的企业和政府机构而言，购买基于云端的工具（与管理本地服务器相比）更有吸引力而且成本也更低。微软Office 365的起始价为每月每用户6美元，而谷歌应用程序的定价方案只有一种，每月每用户5美元。
那么微软打算如何吸引更多的中小企业客户呢（同时防止它们叛逃到谷歌去）？答案是强大的代理渠道。微软目前正与沃达丰集团（Vodafone Group）、日本电话电报公司（NTT）、西班牙电信（Telefonica）等20家全球性电信公司合作，将Office 365捆绑到它们的通信服务中去。
作为Office 365的代理商之一，沃达丰表示已将微软在线服务（Microsoft Online Services，微软第一代基于云端的应用程序）与自己的企业级语音和数据套餐绑定。代理商的全球化布局和现有的客户基础将力助微软对抗谷歌。
话说回来，虽然微软竭尽全力将自己打造成一家云计算公司，但它仍然只是云端应用程序领域的新手。Office 365的多重定价方案很复杂（但从好的方面来看，这为不同规模的公司提供了更多选择）。而且如果Office 365真的成功了，那它可能会与微软传统的Office软件同室操戈，后者目前的利润仍然相当丰厚。
It may not sound quite as sexy as search, web browsers or mobile phones, but there's growing demand for moving all sorts of office applications to the cloud. That's why, Tuesday morning, Microsoft took the wraps off of its long-awaited Office 365, a suite of online productivity tools (and one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry). And it is enlisting big phone companies, which have had a sometimes uneasy relationship with Google, to help it get the tools in the hands of customers.
That's also why, earlier in the week, Google pre-empted the launch with a snarky blog post titled "365 reasons to consider Google Apps."
Google Apps for Business includes Gmail, Google Calendar and Docs and other web-based applications geared for corporate customers and is the biggest threat to Office 365's success. According to Shan Sinha, Google Apps product manager, his company's applications work better across different operating systems and devices, and come with a simpler and more affordable pricing plan than Microsoft's Office 365.
"You can't just take legacy, desktop software, move some of it to a data center and call it 'cloud,'" Sinha wrote in a company blog on Monday.
Ouch. But while Microsoft (MSFT) may seem old and stodgy and desktop-centric compared to Google (GOOG), it has a lot more experience catering to corporate customers than its Mountain View, Calif.-based rival. With Office 365, it's making an aggressive push for small and medium businesses in particular.
Microsoft says 200,000 beta customers signed up for Office 365 over the last few months. About 70% of those customers were small- and medium-sized businesses. Paying for hosted, cloud-based tools (as opposed to managing on-premise servers) is attractive and cost-effective for many cash-strapped companies and government agencies. Microsoft's Office 365 starts at $6 per user per month, while Google Apps costs a flat $5 per user per month.
So what's Microsoft's plan to attract more small and medium business customers (and halt defections to Google)? A strong reseller channel. The company is partnering with about 20 international telecommunications companies—including Vodafone Group (VOD), NTT (NTT) and Telefonica (TEF)—to bundle Office 365 with their communications offerings.
"What we do is dramatically different [than Google]," Marco Limena, VP of the operator channels group at Microsoft, told FORTUNE in a recent interview. "We've been doing business with these companies for many, many years. And telcos are becoming more and more central to general distribution channels for Microsoft as we move to the cloud."
Vodafone, one of the companies that will resell Office 365, says it already bundles Microsoft Online Services (the first-generation of the company's cloud-based apps) with its voice and data plans for businesses. The global reach and existing customer base of its reseller partners could help Microsoft in its fight against Google.
Then again, despite its best efforts to rebrand itself as a bonafide cloud player, it's still early days for Microsoft's foray into web-based applications. Office 365's multi-tiered pricing plan is complicated (on the plus side, it could offer more choice for different sized businesses). And if it does succeed, Office 365 could risk cannibalizing its still hugely profitable traditional Office software suite.
"Technology inevitably gets more complicated as it gets older," Sinha, the Google Apps product manager, wrote in the recent blog post on the Office 365 launch. "...At times like these, it's worth considering a clean-slate: an approach based on entirely modern technologies, designed for today's world."
But here's one challenge both Microsoft and Google will have to overcome--even in today's web-centric world, some corporate customers simply aren't comfortable porting their most sensitive documents to the cloud.