Google, RingCentral Challenge Microsoft to a Cloud Battle

The cloud war has been raging for years. As far as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) goes, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are the titans. They're duking it out on a tectonic magnitude above the challengers and smaller players, and cloud market warfare happens all over the map. One of those arenas is the broad moniker of enterprise communications and collaboration. More specifically, business and consumer voice-over-IP (VoIP). Today, Google fired an interesting shot.

The cloud giant is partnering with RingCentral on RingCentral Office Google Edition, an enterprise bundle combining Google Apps Unlimited and Hangouts with a new version of RingCentral. The bundle will be available for $30 per user per month in the US, UK, and Canada, and existing businesses paying for premium Google services can add RingCentral for $20 per user per month and log in with existing Google credentials. It's single sign-on (SSO) with the ability to make VoIP calls directly from Google Apps, but for RingCentral customers, the pricing is similar depending on which tier of RingCentral Office (for Business) your organization uses. RingCentral Office Standard is $24.99 per user per month, the Premium tier is $34.99, and the Enterprise tier is $44.99.

RingCentral is a key player in the VoIP space with its consumer solution and RingCentral Office (for Business). RingCentral doesn't have as big a footprint as telecom players like AT&T and Verizon or bigger tech companies including Cisco and Microsoft, but it also offers fax and private branch exchange (PBX) products and its Glip team collaboration platform. RingCentral Office Google Edition is a much more official extension of the company's existing partnership integrating Google Apps (for Work) with its VoIP services, along with the free RingCentral plugin for Google Apps available for Chrome. Google and RingCentral will sell the product initially through partner channels, starting with reseller Agosto.

The other intriguing aspect of the deal from the technical side is WebRTC. RingCentral announced WebRTC support in March to allow users to receive voice calls directly from within their primary Web interface without the need of a multi-leg soft phone application (like RingCentral's own softphone). The company said it has developed a "new tier" of the real-time in-browser audio/video communications protocol that's purpose-built for Chrome, Google Drive (for Work), Gmail, Hangouts, and Android.

WebRTC has become a driving force in the past few years for how major browser and online communications providers approach the future of collaboration. This partnership positions Google to possibly make up some ground on a front where Microsoft's been winning handily, particularly in the Satya Nadella era. Why spend time and resources adding full-blown enterprise VoIP to Hangouts when you can partner with one and integrate it with single sign-on across your apps for unified communications and collaboration (UCC)?

"Our partnership with Google presents an amazing opportunity to help companies realize the benefits of Google Apps and the RingCentral platform together, with true enterprise communication capabilities compared to competing solutions, such as Office 365 and Skype for Business," said Vlad Shmunis, chairman, founder, and CEO of RingCentral. "Together with Google, we look forward to helping enterprises maximize their cloud investments with an unprecedented, integrated communications and productivity solution bundle."

Shmunis didn't shy away from the competition, spinning the news as direct Google competition with Microsoft. The RingCentral press release goes as far as to say "This bundle will provide richer and more robust enterprise communication solutions compared to competing industry solutions, such as Office 365 and Skype for Business."

Google and Microsoft have been waging productivity suite wars for years, with cloud-based Google Apps—Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets—pummeling the stalwart Microsoft Office's market share until Microsoft pivoted to the cloud with Office 365 to even the playing field. According to Gartner, Office 365 is now almost doubling Google Apps for Work's market share in the enterprise, with 8.5 percent of public companies in the recent survey using Office 365 compared to 4.7 percent for Google Apps.

Microsoft recently announced an enhancement of its own to its Office line in the form of the Microsoft Surface Hub, a behemoth piece of hardware imbued with Skype for Business and all manner of Microsoft services. PCMag actually got its hands on a Surface Hub, and will have a wealth of exclusive coverage in the next few weeks as we start playing with it and seeing what it can do. Stay tuned.

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