Which is better – Microsoft, Google or Apple?
This is something we’re often asked by people starting a business, either as a sole trader or limited company.
Emerging in the 1990s, software products by Microsoft like Excel, PowerPoint and Word were long considered as the go-to option for anyone wanting to present a professional image in business. For many they remain the applications they are most familiar with, and have even perhaps become synonymous with the spreadsheet, presentation and word processing capabilities they provide.
In more recent times however, both Google and Apple have emerged as serious challengers to Microsoft’s almost default position as the top choice for business – especially with subscription models and downloadable apps replacing boxed software purchases, and so much of our lives now conducted using mobile devices.
So at the risk of being considered difficult, our answer to which is better is – it really does depend on a) what you’ll be doing, and b) who you’ll be interacting with.
First, let’s have a look at Apple
Since it’s launch back in 2007, the iPhone has become the best-selling gadget ever created, and introduced us all to the concept of an “app”. There’s no question that it has transformed our lives, and that much of the world has adapted to accommodate consumer expectations for on-demand services.
iCloud gave us access to files from any device, and Siri became the virtual assistant in your pocket. The iPad finally offered a real alternative to lugging around a weighty laptop. The App Store also introduced us to instantly accessible, and often free ways to manage our productivity.
It’s important to remember that Apple are primarily a hardware manufacturer; apps are generally provided by third parties who jump through many hoops to publish their work in the App store, and as a consequence many of those apps are exclusive to or compatible with Apple (iOS) devices only. Any subscription costs are charged on a per-app basis, rather than being available as an Apple package – although some providers like Adobe do offer a range of products for one overall price..
If you’re a consumer that’s happy running your life on the Apple platform, then that’s not such an issue – but if you’re running a business that relies on being able to collaborate or share your work with customers, then that can present an issue if that customer isn’t also an Apple user.
To conclude, if you’re working as a creative freelancer then Apple is probably a good option for you – but if you’re planning to offer services which aren’t marketing or technology focused, then it may be wiser to look elsewhere.
High quality images or video processing
People who move around a lot
Not so great for
Apps can be Apple-exclusive
Non-standard connectors or chargers
Consumer-focused rather than business-centric
Next up is Google
G Suite is Google’s web-based productivity solution which launched in 2006, and although monthly subscriptions are similarly priced to Microsoft’s 365 offering – from £4.60 to £20 per user, per month – their plans are more straightforward to navigate with just Basic, Business or Enterprise options to choose from in the UK.
Apps in the Basic subscription include Drive (30Mb Cloud storage), Docs, Sheets and Slides plus Gmail, Calendar, Chat, Forms for surveys, Meet for video conferencing, Keep for notes and the Sites website builder. Business and Enterprise plans both offer 1Tb of Cloud storage in Drive (unlimited if there are more than 5 users), plus Cloud Search capabilities and additional security features – although these are unsurprisingly more substantial on the Enterprise plan.
The ease of Google’s connectivity to Android makes it an attractive option for those who frequently use mobile devices for work – hardware tends to be competitively priced too.
If your work tends to involve a lot of remote, real-time collaboration on documents, spreadsheets or presentations – or with individuals who don’t have access to business software – then Google’s G Suite is a great solution. A bonus is that files will also open in Microsoft’s Office applications without any additional conversion, and vice versa.
Works on any device with an internet connection – no hard drive or high specs required
Chrome Extensions minimise context-switching
Many websites and apps will authenticate using your Google login credentials
Not so great for
Unstable web connections; although G Suite does work offline, it’s important to understand that this really just prevents you from losing your work if internet connectivity is lost, and could result in hefty mobile data charges.
No desktop versions of the apps are available.
Finally, let’s look at Microsoft
Things have moved on a lot since the first version of Microsoft Office was released in late 1990 featuring Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Subscriptions to Microsoft 365 now offer access to more than 20 apps – although working out just which plan is right for you can be a challenge. Essentially, if you’re running a business then the Home, Family or Student versions are not the ones you need – and if you’re a small business then the Enterprise options are too much. This leaves you with the Business Basic, Standard or Premium options to choose from, with prices starting from £3.80 and rising to £15.10 per user, per month with an annual commitment.
All plans include the Office apps, email and calendaring with Outlook, chat, calls and meetings with Teams, OneNote for notes plus 1Tb of Cloud storage in OneDrive and SharePoint – although the Basic plan doesn’t include the downloadable desktop versions and so operates in a very similar way to G Suite.
Both the Standard and Premium plans allow you to install desktop versions on up to 5 PCs or Macs and add in the Bookings appointment scheduling app – but the key difference between the two plans are the advanced security and device management capabilities offered with the Premium subscription, which are in line with those offered on the more expensive enterprise-level plans.
If you’re running a business that involves a lot of travelling, or working with corporate clients – particularly in regulated industries like financial services – then you’d be wise to pick Microsoft as your provider. If you are likely to want to offer guest users access to your applications, then the additional security provided on the Premium plan would tip the balance towards that level of subscription.
The Power platform – PowerBI, Power Apps and Power Automate – offers accessible low/no code AI & machine learning capabilities
Customer confidence in your information security
Can be used with Windows, macOS and Linux desktops
Not so great for
Web app functionality can differ from the desktop equivalents, making things a bit confusing
New features and functions can be hard to keep up with
System administration can be a challenge if you’re not familiar with the capabilities offered