Google has announced its much-anticipated move into hosted software for enterprise users with a new collaboration and productivity applications package, Google Apps Premier Edition. With this, Google is aiming to tap into a growing market for productivity tools that allow for collaboration. While Google may struggle to fend off rivals in functionality terms, it could be popular with smaller firms.
Google Apps Premier Edition costs $50 per account per annum, and includes all the applications that come with the free Google Apps for your Domain package launched last summer, plus 10GB of storage per user, 24×7 support for critical issues, and a service-level agreement that promises 99.9% Gmail uptime.
The applications include Google Talk, Calendar, Gmail, Docs & Spreadsheets, and Gmail support for BlackBerry devices. In addition, Google has published a set of application programming interfaces to enable integration with mail gateways, single sign-on software, and user provisioning.
The internet and the web have brought about a revolution in the way that we work. With easy connectivity, more of us are spending more time away from the office than we do in it. The home has become a regular place of work for many. Others find that they can connect to their office systems from customer or supplier sites.
We can work at the airport while waiting for a plane or on the train on the way to meetings. As a result, we require technologies that support our new work styles better. Personal productivity tools are a must, but there is also an increasing need for tools to facilitate collaboration internally with colleagues and externally with partners, suppliers, and customers.
IT departments are looking for better ways to support users and maintain applications. With access to the internet being widely available, hosted application packages offer an excellent way to deal with all of these demands.
With Google Apps Premier Edition, the enterprising search giant is aiming to tap into this market with a set of productivity tools that are designed with collaboration in mind, allowing users to easily share calendars, and simultaneously review and edit documents and spreadsheets from anywhere, so long as they have access to the internet.
Google’s is effectively a ready-made collaboration platform to satisfy many of the needs of the mobile workforce. The Google package aims to take the burden of administration away from the enterprise by removing, for example, the need for companies to download the latest spam filters or navigate unwieldy servers for email applications.
However, Google is not the first to offer such services. Microsoft, for example, offers Office Live, which gives small businesses a free domain, email accounts, web hosting, and other applications. Yahoo!’s years-old small business services offer similar functionality, with different levels of paid-for service. There are also multitudes of internet service providers that offer domain name registration with disk storage, email, and website hosting services, with companies such as Skype providing IM-based collaboration functionality for free.
Google’s package includes an impressive array of tools, and much better collaboration capabilities, but enterprise users are likely to evaluate it first and foremost for office productivity tools. In terms of functionality, Google Docs & Spreadsheets only provides basic features. The product cannot be compared with functionally-rich software such as Microsoft Office products that dominate the desktop. There is a clear trade-off between functionality and cost. As such, Google’s competitively-priced package is likely to appeal more to small and medium businesses (SMBs), than to information workers in larger enterprises, who are accustomed to their functionally-rich desktop tools.
Nevertheless, Google’s entry into the enterprise market is likely to result in improvements in products and services in this arena. We are likely to see deeper and wider services for software on a subscription basis, with more and more functionality offered as time goes by.
Google’s latest offering is good for SMBs, and for collaboration with external parties. However, it is neither intended for, nor is it likely to appeal to, enterprise users as a substitute for desktop personal productivity tools in its current form. Richer functionality is needed to woo enterprise users over to Google.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)