[caption id="attachment_3830" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Office 365 aims to blunt Google's cloud-productivity efforts.[/caption] The County of Santa Clara, Calif., has selected Microsoft’s Office 365 as its new communications and collaboration platform for employees. The County will spend $3.6 million annually on the cloud-based platform for its 15,000 employees. “The selection of this solution and our IT consolidation efforts have enabled us to nearly double the number of employees covered,” Joyce Wing, the county’s CIO, wrote in an Aug. 22 statement. “Now our staff will be able to move forward collaboratively and take advantage of many new capabilities.” Santa Clara operates a public hospital and health system, social services, law enforcement, and roads and airports; it conducts elections; and consequently, it needed any cloud platform to offer a high level of data security. Office 365 apparently met those requirements. In keeping with its “cloud first” strategy of recent years, Microsoft has been aggressively pushing Office 365 to a number of different audience segments, including schools and government. In an effort to further spur adoption, the company also instituted price cuts of up to 20 percent for most enterprise plans, claiming that it was passing the savings from “efficiencies” onto customers. But Microsoft faces a determined opponent in the cloud-productivity space: Google. The search-engine giant recently acquired QuickOffice, a popular productivity suite for mobile offerings, and will almost certainly integrate that software in some way to its current productivity offerings. Microsoft’s upcoming version of “regular” Office is also notably cloud-centric. In addition to saving documents by default in Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-storage hub, the next-generation software will allow users to migrate their personalized settings (including templates and custom dictionaries) across any number of devices. The rivalry between Google and Microsoft over cloud-productivity platforms has intensified in recent years, with both companies crowing loudly about respective customer wins. That competition reached something of a peak in late 2010, when Google filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of the Interior denied its bid to implement a cloud email and messaging system. That contract had gone to Microsoft’s BPOS-Federal suite, the forerunner of Office 365 for Government. In response, the Department of the Interior eventually agreed to consider Google Apps. While cloud-productivity platforms constitute a relatively small portion of the overall productivity software market, that market-share will certainly increase in coming years. Google and Microsoft are both well aware of that fact. And so the battle continues.   Image: Microsoft