Google has taken a few more steps forwards with its burgeoning enterprise offering with two notable additions to its "Apps" suite. In typical Google fashion, the latest enhancements to Google Apps for Your Domain
arrived with little fanfare -- users simply noticed that they had an "Enterprise Start Page" in their options window and some new Google Page Creator tools at their finger tips.
Google Apps for Your Domain offers private-labeled email, instant messaging, calendaring tools, simple web page authoring, and now the Enterprise Start Page. The project started out with a focus on small business, but that mission is clearly evolving and an Enterprise incarnation is due out in early 2007.
The Enterprise Start Page, which functions a bit like a Web 2.0 portal, is a step in, well, both directions. It is flexible and can either be centrally maintained by an administrator or totally configured by the users. The Google Page Creator, one of the evolving Apps offerings, was updated with some badly needed new features, including browser-based, inline editing of pictures and a mobile edition.
The Google online apps paradigm is steaming right along, and it appears, right along towards a collision course with the traditional desktop applications. Apps for Your Domain came out of beta about a month ago and the company now counts over 5000 enterprise clients (mostly for their search appliance). The numbers are growing swiftly across the board and 2007 is sure to be a year of software tradition disruption. Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, thinks that spending $300-1000 a year (and countless more in IT man-hours) on a messaging server will soon become obsolete. And that's just the beginning.
Google's push into the enterprise will accelerate in Q1 2007 with its premium version of "Google Apps for Your Domain" taking aim at the larger enterprise. The solution will utilize both Google's inexpensive and massively scalable infrastructure -- often called "the cloud", and if things progress as the company plans, the Google Appliance, Google Enterprise Apps, and the Google Desktop for Enterprise together in a symphony of simplicity and information availability.
Google's Enterprise division recently held a meeting at its New York City office with 200 big technology buyers. This went down last Tuesday at a breakfast hosted by Michael Lock, Director of North American Sales for Google Enterprise.
Lock is evangelizing the Google paradigm as it takes over territory traditionally dominated by Microsoft. While not openly aimed at Microsoft, Lock's group's philosophy of "Death to the Hierarchy" is a rallying cry for those who want to replace traditional applications with Google's mystical and accessible cloud of data and computing resources.
Microsoft is not taking this sitting down. Their track record of dominance is largely based upon platform control and their ability to identify and subvert or co-opt challengers.
As for co-option, Microsoft Live! just came out of beta in North America and is aiming to seduce current MS Office users contemplating a move towards office software as a service (SaaS). On the subversion strategy, Redmond is quickly pushing both Vista and SharePoint out the door. Vista's impact on the SaaS model remains to be seen. However, with SharePoint, its clear that MS is working hard to keep your company's data and collaboration activities safely tucked inside the firewall, running on Microsoft software.
Google's got a few cards ready to go as well. Their awkwardly named "Docs & Spreadsheets" has yet to be integrated into the "Apps for Your Domain" bundle. Similarly, the recent acquisition of the JotSpot online office suite
(featuring Wiki's and collaboration) has far from been played-out. These are significant chess pieces, and ones that will no doubt enter the game with force in the new year.
Just like Google surprised you with a built-in instant messaging client, and continuously and quietly delivers (largely) pleasant GMail interface updates, they will bring more and more functionality to their enterprise Apps offering, often under the radar.
As you take advantage of the feature additions and as your working patterns gradually shift towards the new paradigm, realize that in the new age of the enterprise desktop battle, this is just the beginning of what is to come.