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Giant Google Gets Rivalry From Tiny Firm

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here's a hot question for a hot summer day: Who's the better small-business office play? Web giant Google (GOOG) or tiny Rockville, Maryland-based HyperOffice?

Google is certainly "Googlian" scalewise. The company brags that 25 million people use its email, word processing and spread sheets on its free Google Apps product, with about 2 million forking over $50 a year for the hosted Google Apps Premier service.

HyperOffice, on the other hand, a 30-person firm started in 1998, claims just 300,000 customers for a similar offering of email, calendaring and the like -- albeit presented in a more controlled, high-touch, service-oriented offering.

Sounds like Google's got HyperOffice smoked, right? Well, maybe not. HyperOffice commands about $100 a person per year, or basically double what Google charges. And Google's 2 million paying customers amount to a measly 1% take rate when you consider that Gmail -- the heart of Google Apps -- is probably used by at least 150 million users. And HyperOffice is doing nothing but growing.

"We see our market up 15% per year, minimum," says Shahab Kaviani, executive vice president for marketing at HyperOffice. "Small businesses want to know that someone out there is backing them up on their office tools."

So what does it take for a 30-person small business to compete with the biggest, baddest technology company on the planet? I took HyperOffice for a test demo for the past few weeks to find out.

What you get: No big surprise here: HyperOffice is a fully supported collaboration work environment aimed at small businesses.

HyperOffice is simple: It is basically a Web-based version of Microsoft's mail, calendaring and task-management heavyweight Outlook, with functions like tasks, news readers, documents, links, Wiki and group collaboration baked in. It's all here: the familiar Outlookish splash page with news, meetings, new mail and other information. It has a nicely done column down the left of the page for other features like documents and collab tools.

I liked the super-clear delineation between personal and shared information, which is a major sticking point for most small businesses. And contacts, the pain in the digital butts of both Outlook and Google Apps, are smooth as silk in HyperOffice. For anybody who has struggled with Microsoft SharePoint or similar enterprise collab tools, HyperOffice is a major step forward.

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