Matthew Sekol

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words."

Month: March 2015

How to Use 15% of Office or How to Use Google Apps

For a couple of years now, people have been comparing Google Apps for Business and Office 365. One of the common perceptions from the pro-Google side has been that most people on use 15% of the functionality within the Office software. They expand the conversation to state that the most commonly used spreadsheet features are in Google sheets, and as of late, that is possibly true. A lot of people just use the same 15% of features over and over.

Some businesses can probably get by with most of what Google Apps for Business offers. This selling premise bothers me though and raises a few questions. Is your business only operating at 15% of what it could do by going with Google Apps and, better yet, if you have Office, are people taking advantage of more than 15%?

As much as I’d like to stray this conversation away from cost, this is foremost on people’s mind. Here’s what we can talk about – the hard costs. It is most fair to compare the base Google plan to the base Microsoft plan. Guess what? Both are $5/user/month! In my experience though, companies who choose Office 365 don’t go with this plan. People who choose Office want the Office desktop software, not just web based productivity tools.

The price for the popular Office 365 E3 plan is $20/user/month compared to Google Apps for Business with unlimited storage and Vault at $10/user/month. The big difference here is the Office software itself of course. For $20/user/month, you can run Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs and have up to 5 mobile and tablet versions anywhere (not including Office Web Apps which works via any browser).

So, is Office worth an extra $10/user/month? Well, Google supporters would have you believe that it is not. After all, that 15% usage creeps in. If Google has only focused on these features though, why isn’t the price for the base Google Apps 15% of the Office 365 E3 plan?

Let’s look at some ways Microsoft makes up for this price difference and how the usage matters. Full Disclosure – I have used both Google Apps for Business and Office 365 in a professional setting.

This is where Google Apps for Business was born and where Microsoft has dominated over the last 20 years. Google Mail has been around since 2004. The other non-mail Google services have been stacked on over the years. Heck, even Microsoft used GMail in an augmented reality game for Halo 2 (that’s how I scored an invite).

Here’s one thing Google understood early on. People get a TON of email. In order to deal with it, they need a LOT of mailbox storage. I remember watching the GB counter every day with much email storage I could get with my free GMail account and comparing it to my 100MB corporate account.

Google’s solution: Search your email, don’t worry about organization or filing.

On the flip side, Microsoft understood something else. People get a TON of email. Email is content. Not all content should be consumed via email and there are different ways to foster collaboration. This is what I see when I look at Office 365 today. Different solutions for different content.

Microsoft’s solution: Put content in the right location and collaborate more effectively. Besides that, organize and prioritize your email. Microsoft knows though that not every corporate culture is savvy in dealing with email content, which is why there are tools to help you, as the recipient, prioritize and clean-up your mailbox (see Clutter, Junk, Ignore Conversations, and Filter Email).

Google actually contributes to the problem of email volume under a horrible guise – search and recall. The assumption of Google is that email is just another mass repository to dump everything and, when you need it, just search for it.


Let’s look at the Google and Microsoft productivity suites and see what else we can do.

Instant Collaboration
Both Google and Microsoft have instant messaging solutions, but they are vastly different. Even with their differences, both work for instant and impromptu communication, determining someone’s availability, file sharing and storing conversation history in their respective mailboxes.

Microsoft’s solution: Use instant messaging as a backbone for quick collaboration, but extend the functionality into meetings, audio and video sharing. Also, make it available throughout Office. As a result, Microsoft Lync is much more than chat, Lync is everywhere across the Office platform. Within the client or within other Office software, you can instantly collaborate with someone over chat, audio, video or with desktop sharing.

Google’s Solution: Just chat, well mostly. Google Talk, which had been wildly popular, was integrated with Google Mail as Lync is with Outlook, but the enhanced features of Lync, like video conferencing and desktop sharing have spawned another application, Hangouts. One thing of note though, Hangouts is not as ubiquitous throughout the Google suite and still it’s own application. Google might be driving towards a Lync-like solution, but they aren’t there yet.

File Storage
Microsoft’s solution: Let people collaborate in teams or spawn collaboration from the individual. SharePoint/OneDrive has come a long way in reducing emails and even file sharing content. This software has been massively popular due to the intuitive interface backed by real time collaboration of documents, spreadsheets and presentations. SharePoint does so much more than document management though and is great at other content management (Discussion Boards, Polls, Shared Calendars, Lists, etc.). OneDrive is more like your personal home drive, built on SharePoint Online and allows for easy sharing of documents.

Google’s solution: Individual file storage and sharing via Google Docs and Drive. The organization is geared towards the individual, not team or project based. Google Docs is really more like DropBox – a simple file repository. Google also has Sites for more team based collaboration, but the end user setup is confusing, requiring more web authoring skills than SharePoint, not to mention, the samples are extremely lame and look about 15 years old.

Enterprise Social
Businesses are starting to leverage social connections within the organization to distribute data and collaborate. This adoption can drive email message volume down and provide a way to easily collaborate with familiar tools from their personal life.

Microsoft’s solution: Familiar is good, natively adopt the best features of personal social media networks and develop an Enterprise class solution. Yammer is for real collaboration and simple broadcasts that are best kept out of email. Sick of ‘Congratulations’ emails? Just look to Yammer’s Praise feature. Yammer is a great place to disseminate static information and the best part is that the recipient is responsible for finding the content. This flips the email scenario on its head!

Yammer could stand some improvements though and better integration with Lync, instead of its own chat client. There’s also an overlap here with SharePoint that folks are expecting will get fleshed out soon.

Google’s solution: Well, no one really knows because everyone avoids it like the plague. With Google, we’re back to Hangouts and Google+, which, again, is just a disaster. Google seems to have a problem discerning consumer solutions from enterprise solutions. There’s a great post about Google+ from a former Googler (watch out for the language). You can see the emphasis on the consumer side throughout his article, but the enterprise conversation (and lack of direction for Google+ in general) is missing.

Good Enough
So, with all the Office functionality, looking at content in a new way and clear cohesiveness throughout the suite, is working at 15% with Google Apps going to work for your company? Office is really worth the money, but you have to make it work for you. Don’t be content to let your end users use only 15% of the suite. Set up some governance and controls to make the most out of your investment. You will find that your users will figure out how best to use the features and they will do some amazing things. I’ve seen it happen!

If there’s still any question about what’s possible, go watch the latest Sykpe for Business video from Microsoft and then go re-visit Google’s intranet Site sample.

How Providers and Distributors are Dooming the Future of Content

It seems like the content providers just can’t figure out content distribution. Piracy is rampant, yet the options to get content are more confusing and siloed than ever before. Consumers are being driven away from the traditional cable/satellite subscription model and towards a solution rife with disparity. This isn’t a problem limited to just television, movie content seems to be annoyingly unavailable when and where you want it. Can anyone get this right?

HBO – what have you done?
There’s no denying HBO is a juggernaut content provider. It sits atop the premium cable channels as king with “Game of Thrones” leading the charge. Despite this great content, they have a massive distribution problem. At $15-$18 a month for the channel, they are finding a lot of people want the content and don’t want to pay for it. As evidence, “Game of Thrones” was the top most torrented show of 2014.

HBO’s latest announcement though is that it will simulcast “Game of Thrones” across several countries, which is a page ripped from the record industry’s latest move. There is a big assumption here that people just want to see it immediately and, if they can’t, they will pirate the show. More likely, people are just looking for it immediately because they are worried it will get pulled. The more savvy pirates have schedulers that just constantly check for content on torrent sites or UseNet groups.

This quote from HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler reveals a common content delivery misperception that compounds the issue:
“We see a big opportunity for a stand-alone HBO product around the world,”

This shows a massive lack of understanding regarding HBO’s place as a content provider vs. a distributor, like DirecTV, Netflix or Amazon. Instead of moving towards a model where a consumer can pick from a range of distributors and still get to content, consumers are now forced to choose a content provider on a specific platform, but still at the same rate.


This brings us to HBO Now and Apple TV. HBO had a massive opportunity to not only embrace ‘cord-cutting’ consumers who have dropped their cable/satellite subscription, but establish itself as a ubiquitous and portable solution across platforms. Unfortunately, it has done the opposite. With this announcement, it has out-priced itself by offering HBO Now at $15/month and offered the solution to only Apple users, isolating everyone else. They could have built an application across platforms (including Google Chromecast, Xbox, PlayStation, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, etc.). This move will not stop piracy.

What HBO should have done was offer the subscription at a lower rate than its cable/satellite providers and offered it on more platforms. Leading the charge for content ubiquity over their own provider network would’ve opened up other premium cable channel providers (Cinemax, Showtime) to do the same. Even AMC, another juggernaut content provider of late, could’ve gotten into the game. This could have ultimately forced satellite and cable providers to start lowering their subscription costs as well. When more people have more options to get content, the cost is driven down at the distribution level, but raised at the content provider level. When that happens, content distributors subscriptions might go up due to the lower cost and variety of options.

At the far end, we could have all started managing our own content subscriptions. What a wasted chance!

Powers at PlayStation
I finally feel like I got on the boat early! I’ve been reading the “Powers” comic book since the first issue. I was extremely excited to see that it was being developed into a TV show, but there’s just one problem. I have an Xbox One, and “Powers” is only airing on the PlayStation network. So now my only legal choice is to wait and see if/when it comes out in another format. I certainly am not dropping hundred of dollars on a PS4 when I’ve made my console choice and I’m not the only one!


I could choose to subscribe to PlayStationPlus for $50/year and watch “Powers,” but that just doesn’t make economical sense and that isn’t the point of it anyway. PlayStation (like Xbox) wants the additional content as incentive for you to subscribe. A consumer not only receives video content, but also can take advantage of the free games and other online benefits.

PlayStation has definitely guaranteed that “Powers” will be pirated by distributing it on their own network only. That, and they’ve likely doomed it to failure since it won’t reach a lot of consumers.

This is another example of a missed opportunity to drive consumers to choice and their own content subscriptions. They could have easily added Amazon Prime and Netflix as content distributors to this.

Going the Other Way
On the flip side, distributors are getting into the content provider game, which perpetuates this mess. Both Amazon and Netflix have started offering content as part of their subscriptions and both have unique hooks into their other services. Personally, I like Amazon Prime for the free shipping. The content is really just a side benefit. Even renting movies on Amazon and their free (and sparse) Prime video content isn’t worth the subscription alone. I will say though, I am really looking forward to “The Man in the High Castle.”


It makes a huge amount of sense for Netflix to offer original programming since their base consumers are looking for video streaming already, but they can’t seem to hold on to studios very well. Every month, there seems to be another article that outlines which movies and TV shows are disappearing. Amazon has this problem too, although it was very self-inflicting. Surely, Amazon and Netflix wouldn’t allow their content to be distributed via another provider!

As a result, every content provider wants to be their own distributor and every distributor wants content exclusivity and will get it via their own content. Frankly, this is killing profits and just contributing to piracy.

Let’s hop in our time machine to 1999 and find out what how we used to consume video content.

You have arrived safely in 1999 and want a movie. You have two choices, buy or rent. Regardless of the choice you make, you can visit a store any find any movie you want(depending on stock). You can even find the same movies on VHS or DVD, depending on your player. These are industry standards and consumers follow them.

Now, let’s go to an alternate timeline run by content providers and distributors.

After a rocky trip, you arrive in 1999 and want a movie. Everyone is intimately familiar with content distribution channels and know which stores carry which movies. They have to because of the complexity! You want to purchase “Back to the Future”, but you can’t find a K-Mart, which is the sole provider of Universal Pictures content sold on HD VHS. There is a Blockbuster nearby, but they only have Orion Pictures content on Laserdisc and you only have a DVD player, so it looks like you won’t be watching “Terminator” either. It looks like you’ll have to find a Suncoast Video. They sell Paramount Pictures’ DVD format. Maybe “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” can do the trick.

This is basically where we are heading with unique solutions for every content provider and distributor. Seriously – this is bananas! Consumers are being forced into specific platforms and options only available in certain locations. You have to stand on your head and chant 3 times to watch one movie and shake your leg in the air to watch another. For crying out loud, I can’t even purchase Big Hero 6 in 3D in the US, but I can rent it! Disney, just take my money, will you?

The Solution
As simplistic as it may sound, it apparently needs stating. All content distribution providers should have all the content they can from other content providers. This is the value they bring for now. Only then can they compete and offer unique services to enhance the content consumption piece. In the future, additional content that could be tailored via a paid experience through a content distributor could set them apart and reduce piracy (for example, HoloLens content).

The problem is, whoever manages this content kingdom will rule everything and everyone wants a piece of it. This is likely why Verizon is even taking another crack at it. So right now, consumers are stuck with too many expensive options because everyone believes their content is best and worth the money. The fact remains though that there is not one solution to rule them all, which means multiple subscriptions for customers from multiple content providers that have become distributors themselves. All the while, the entertainment industry is wondering why people pirate content.

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