[caption id="attachment_1307" align="aligncenter" width="585" caption="Microsoft hopes its cloud-based email and productivity software can win government contracts."] [/caption] In a bid to expand the reach of its cloud services, Microsoft has introduced Office 365 for Government. Office 365 for Government will feature the same cloud-based productivity tools as “regular” Office 365, including Lync Online, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Office Professional Plus. In a nod to the inevitable security and privacy concerns, the government edition will also store data in a segregated community cloud. At the moment Office 365 supports an alphabet soup of global and regional standards related to security, including ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, HIPAA, FERPA, and FISMA; support for Criminal Justice Information Security (CJIS) policies is apparently in the works. IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6, the successor to IPv4) support will arrive on Office 365 for Government by the end of the year. Office 365 is one of the most visible examples of Microsoft’s “all in” cloud strategy. Granted, cloud-based software offers Microsoft certain advantages over the desktop-based versions on which it built an empire: for one thing, businesses that sign up for a subscription-style service like Office 365 can be counted on for revenue month after month. However, a burgeoning cloud strategy also places Microsoft on a collision course with Google, which wants consumers, businesses and governments to sign up for its cloud services. The end result: an increasingly brutal battle between the two tech titans, with a tit-for-tat series of respective victories and defeats. In 2009, Google signed an agreement with the City of Los Angeles to provide email services to a portion of its employees. Microsoft responded by scoring a deal with New York City in October 2010 to provide access to cloud applications, followed by a cloud-email agreement with the city and county of San Francisco in May 2011. So fierce was the rivalry that Google eventually sued the federal government, alleging that the Department of the Interior denied its bid for a cloud email and messaging system. That contract went to Microsoft’s BPOS-Federal suite, in many ways the forerunner of the newly announced Office 365 for Government. The Department of the Interior eventually agreed to consider Google Apps as an alternative platform. While desktop-based Microsoft Office continues to dominate the productivity-software market, both Google and Microsoft clearly see cloud-productivity software becoming more prominent in years ahead. That’s not to say that businesses and governments will make an abrupt jump from desktop to cloud without a look back; analysts such as Gartner’s Michael Silver believe most workers will mix traditional Office use with cloud-based applications. Governments employ enormous numbers of people; winning even a city contract can translate into a considerable amount of new seats for a particular platform. Hence Microsoft’s Office 365 for Government, and its determination to fight Google.   Image: Microsoft