Of course, when big companies like Morgans move all their employees from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps, there are often a few folks who aren't ready to give up Microsoft Outlook right away. To help them make the transition, today we also introduced Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook to our Premier and Education edition customers. It lets Outlook work easily with Apps and — like offline Gmail and the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry® Enterprise Server — is another example of how we're making it dead simple to switch to Google Apps.
This is not a new model, PostPath (now owned by Cisco) made it a business and sales model, others like Zimbra (Yahoo) have been doing this for a while, and even Oracle Beehive is coming out of the gate touting this capability. So while radical for Google, it is business model that other SaaS email competitors are also up to.
Of course this tool on syncs GAPE mail, contacts and calendar with Outlook and does not integrate other GAPE tools with the rest of the Office suite. According to Google's data sheet the following benefits come with GASMO (I'm sorry about that):
Email, calendar, and contact sync
Free/busy and Global Address look up
Simple, user-driven data migration
Note: The following features will continue to be available in Outlook, but will not be
synchronized by Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook in Google Apps: user
delegation, public folders, and syncing of notes, tasks, journals, and distribution lists.
The migration feature is a nice bonus.
This demonstrates how the front lines of the Google and Microsoft competition is email. Taking the front-end (i.e., client) argument out of the email decision picture will make it easier for customers to compare the back-end side of hosted messaging. I don't think it will make the decision any easier by itself - especially for enterprises - but it could eliminate one strong objection and put the focus onto operational concerns.
Official Google Blog: The state of cloud computing