Microsoft  is slinging some mud to stick up for its Office franchise.
Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft Online Services, wrote in a blog post that Google apps come with an expensive hidden tax , like the bulk of an iceberg hidden beneath a serene ocean surface, and Windows netbooks are better than MacBook Airs. He even posted this handy, pithy infographic.
Microsoft surveyed over 90 small and medium-sized businesses in five different countries recently, and discovered that, for 90% of the respondees, Google Apps were used in parallel to Microsoft's flagship Office product. Most limited their use of Google software to Gmail and calendar, with just 20% using Google Docs. Instead, 66% of companies still use Office as their main "productivity solution."
Using Google products, which are notionally low cost, actually involves incurring hidden fees, says Microsoft, which can easily push higher than the $50 initial fee. Explaining the conclusions, Rizzo suggested that the idea that Google Apps are more or less free is merely a sales pitch and "once people see through" it, then they'll "realize just how poor the return on investment for Google Apps actually is" and thus come to understand why "750 million people have chosen Office to power" their businesses.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has come out with a new online advertisement  that plays on the age-old "Apple tax" idea, suggesting Apple products are more expensive than equivalent Windows PCs. It's called "Do the Math" and it lists the new MacBook Air 11-inch alongside a number of netbooks powered by Windows 7. While the Air costs more than $1,000, the other three computers on the page top out at $350. MS's suggests the Air's CPU is slower, its battery life is poorer, hard drive is worse, online storage costs more, and you have to pay to acquire security protection for the device.
This comparison blithely ignores the fact the Airs come with a solid-state hard drive and optimized hardware that delivers blisteringly fast user experiences, that the Macs have full OS X aboard, but that netbooks usually sport an entry-level edition of Windows that is compromised in some of its features, and that actual battery life is usually much worse for netbooks than is typically suggested.
Why is Microsoft pulling stunts like this now? It's by no means desperate, since its income is still very comfortable, but Apple is rapidly increasing  its share of the PC market, and the iPad (and surprisingly high sales of those very 11-inch Macs) is pressuring the netbook industry--which obviously delivers income to MS through Windows licensing and ongoing purchases. Microsoft may be feeling the squeeze.
[Image via Flickr user natalielucier ]