Google has started up an interesting ad campaign in four major US cities (including Boston) in which it touts the benefits and simplicity of moving to Google Apps. Here's some info about this from the Official Google Blog:

Every morning, millions of people wake up to a very refreshing experience at work. They don't see "mailbox is full" errors in their email. They don't worry about backing up their data. They can get to any file they need from any computer, anywhere with Internet access and a browser. They can all access and edit the same documents and spreadsheets at the same time as their colleagues. They use Gmail and Google Calendar at work as fluidly and easily as they use their personal Gmail accounts. They video, voice and text chat with their peers globally as naturally as they send email.

The IT people at these companies and organizations don't waste time or money buying, installing or managing email servers. They focus on the smart, innovative stuff they want to work on, because they never have to bother with expensive and painful software upgrades, hardware compatibility issues or managing data centers. They have left many IT frustrations and costs behind and moved on to something better.

Here at Google, we have a term for the moment a company realizes there's a better way and goes for it: "going Google." Over 1.75 million businesses, schools and organizations have gone Google — including Motorola, University of Notre Dame, the Mercy Corps and many more — and each day, 3,000 more organizations join them. We want every organization to understand the benefits of going Google, so today we're telling the story in a new way. We're kicking off a series of outdoor billboards in four cities — Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco — that will change every weekday for the next four weeks. The billboards tell the story of an anonymous IT manager who gets so fed up with the typical IT status quo that his company eventually — you guessed it — goes Google.

Visit www.google.com/appsatwork to get more information about the benefits of going Google. Already gone Google? Tweet your story and check out our tools to help spread the word.

In keeping with my recent talk and Microsoft Gets FAMiliar with Cloud Strategy article, I should point out the following observations. Gmail and Google Calendar work primarily because they are simple and efficient. (Though they can be made less so with various "labs" add-ons now.) This is exactly why I use these solutions myself. They're just superior. Microsoft's web-based version of Outlook, Outlook Web Access (OWA) does not work because it is big, busy, and slow. It is in fact, too much like the desktop version of Outlook, which also does not work (for me at least). But at least OWA does get away from that "tied to one machine" issue that dogs desktop Outlook. So for online activities--email and calendar--I feel that Google has already won. Gmail and Google Calendar are better.

For productivity applications, there is Microsoft Office and then there are older versions of Microsoft Office. Nothing else compares, and that includes OpenOffice.org (and its many derivatives), iWork, and, yes, Google Docs. Microsoft, of course, is busy porting four Office 2010 apps to the web as part of Office Web Applications (also, awkwardly, OWA). Office Web Apps will be free. This solution is vastly superior to Google Apps. It's not even close.

So. Where does this lead us? Ultimately, the conclusion is the same as almost any debate about cloud computing. While some Luddites believe that desktop-only solutions (Outlook, Office) are all they'll ever need, and starry-eyed idealists (myself, certainly sometimes) believe that the future is all-cloud, the reality is that, today certainly, hybrids solutions are best. So for all those guys supposedly "going Google", I bet a huge percentage are using Gmail/Google Calendar in the cloud, but also using Microsoft Office locally. (Go figure, but that's what I'm doing.) It's not about idealism, it's about using the best solution. And right now, neither company--Google or Microsoft--has one across the board. Office Web Apps will keep people in the Microsoft ecosystem, at least partially. But it won't help the email/PIM picture at all. Nor will stem the flood of people who are, in fact, moving to the cloud.