Much is made in the press of the functional and financial differences between Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365.
But the biggest difference isn’t being given as much attention; Google Apps is from an advertising company and Office 365 is from a software company.
If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
The aim of a company that makes its money from selling advertising, specifically from people interacting with their advertising with pay per click, is to provide as much of the best quality advertising as possible to as many people as possible. The services that they provide are merely the bait to hook the users.
Do not be fooled by the common misconception of ‘free’ software or services. It does not cost Google any less to provide Google Apps than it does Microsoft to provide Office 365, and you just have to look at their quarterly earnings to see that there’s plenty of money to be made in not charging users.
To that aim, ultimately their incentive is to collect as much of your data, for e.g. emails, documents, files, calendar entries and conversations, as they can to learn more about you, making their advertising more effective.
And you just have to look at Google’s Terms of Service to see this in action:
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).
Conversely, the aim of a company that makes its money from selling software is to provide the best quality software possible.
For comparison, Microsoft’s policy on this is:
We use your data for just what you pay us for – to maintain and provide Microsoft Online Services. We make it our policy to not use it for other purposes. Our business services are designed and operated completely separate from Microsoft’s consumer services. While some data may be stored or processed on systems used both for consumer and business services, business services data is not shared with systems used for advertising.
When you’re looking to buy the best online advertising you can – advertising that your business depends on – you wouldn’t go to a software company.
If you’re looking to buy the best business productivity software you can – software that your business depends on – don’t go to an advertising company.