To: Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

Dear Eric,

You blew it. Well, OK, not you personally. I'm talking about your Apps team.

Last week, I experimented with upgrading to Google Apps. My test ended within three hours, and as of this writing, I'm back to using Google's free services alongside my copy of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office suite.

I know you're not this stupid
Google has extremely limited tools for handling data migration, and zero -- that's right, none, nada, null -- for migrating my data as I've customized it. Sure, I can move my contacts to Apps, but not the groups I've created. I can move messages, but not the labels I use to organize workflow in Gmail. I even asked for help from support, Eric, but I received none. (At least I got an apology, though.)

Effectively, you're asking me to move data, and then start over with the sorting process. No thanks. I'd rather you stole some beer from the fridge or kicked my imaginary cat.

Seriously, why make it difficult for a customer like me, one already predisposed to your services, to upgrade to a premium account? I know it's just $50 for the year, and I'm just one Fool, but $50 buys almost two months' worth of gooey goodies from the Taco Bell dollar menu. Dude!

Good stories gone bad
Kidding aside, your marketing makes this problem all the more frustrating. On Twitter and in press releases, all we hear are stories of large departments migrating from Office to Apps, saving bundles in the process.

The entire city of Los Angeles plans to migrate 17,000 employees to Google Apps. And big companies such as Motorola are talking up the suite as if the attendant savings will drive earnings. Mr. Softy can't like hearing that. But does Microsoft have much to fear, really, when you can't take care of your own installed base?

Installed. Base. These, sir, are two most important words in tech, and the bedrock upon which all great tech investments are built. Consider:

  • Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), which has more than 50 million iPhone users with access to 185,000 apps. These iAddicts are now lining up to buy the iPad.
  • Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE), whose Photoshop is one of the greatest cash cows in the history of the software industry. The company sells both entry-level and professional-level tools, expressly for the purpose of earning more from customers over time.
  • Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), which makes its living convincing longtime CrackBerry users to upgrade their devices. That's been a winning strategy for years.
  • Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), which might have the greatest installed base in the history of the world. All it does it sell new breeds of x86 chips to longtime customers Dell and Hewlett-Packard, among others.
  • (NYSE: CRM), which has created what is arguably the most successful cloud-computing platform on the market today. The more existing customers use it, the more money makes.

Can you see the irony here? I can. Users are leaving Office behind, not only because Google offers a cheap alternative, but also because Microsoft hasn't done enough to ... drumroll, please ... satisfy its installed base.

Outlook, Word, Excel -- as popular as these programs are, they're well behind their Google Apps counterparts in enabling collaborative work. SharePoint isn't as seamless as the cloud. It never will be.

But again, you know all this. That's why your marketing is so focused on convincing large enterprises to make the switch, even as you ignore those of us who've already switched and now want to eat at the Big Kids Table. You do love us, too, don't you?

Say yes, Eric. Because here's the bottom line: No matter how many Microsoft users you get to switch, there are 100 million of us out there using Gmail right now. I bet quite of a few of us would upgrade if we could be sure that the process were seamless. Since it's not, you're leaving millions on the table. I'm here to lovingly tell you that, as a customer and investor in your stock, that's unacceptable.

Foolish best,


Have you upgraded to Google Apps? Tell us about your experience in the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy loves you jus the way you are.