The only really surprising thing about the release of Google Springboard in Tokyo last night was that it has taken Google so long to think of it.
Springboard was unveiled at Google Atmosphere — Google’s global enterprise event series — where Prabhakar Raghavan, VP of Engineering, Google Apps, told the audience that it is now available for early adopters and will become available to everyone else over the coming months.
Springboard ties together the elements of Google Apps for Work together through a unified search application. Raghavan explained that Springboard will uncover files located just about any Google business app, including Google Drive, Gmail and contacts.
He also announced a major overhaul of Google Sites that enables even the least tech-savvy business user to build websites that can be used to share information internally.
Finding, Sharing Digital Content
The principal objective here is to enable users to share and distribute digital content through the creation of functional pages that can be optimized for every screen.
Sound familiar? It should. In May, Microsoft released SharePoint 2016 with a revamped Search and Sites functionality. With the new Sites, Microsoft provided revitalized libraries and lists with an intuitive user experience and provide rich metadata, content management and functionality. It also introduced a new page authoring and publishing capabilities.
SharePoint 2016 came with a new unified Search experience too. Office 365 Search uses the On-Premises SharePoint Search Index so that it can give you results from both cloud and on-premises for the same query.
Google vs. Microsoft
Google for Work is targeted at small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs), while SharePoint is essentially an enterprise application. But both Google and Microsoft are tackling a data explosion — and both have clearly decided that unified search is the best way to give users access to all data repositories.
In fact, if anything, Microsoft is following Google in this respect as Google has been the search leader for nearly two decades. By introducing unified search, it is simply playing to its strengths and catering for the large number of businesses that use Google for Work.
Google is still only offering a connection to Google services in the cloud, but this is only the beginning and the smart betting is on Google providing access to on-premises data in the near future. Springboard, Raghavan wrote in a blog post about the announcement, is about bringing new technologies into the search arena.
In fact, it looks a lot like Google Now, Google’s intelligent personal assistant, released in 2013, and available within the Google Search mobile application for Android and iOS, as well as the Google Chrome web and extended to Google for Work.
There was announcement at Atmosphere last night — and it adds to suspicions that Google is looking to take on SharePoint. It's the redesign of Sites.
According to Raghavan, Sites is one of the most popular products among Google enterprise customers. This update, he wrote in the blog, will make it easier to share information.
It offers a new drag-and-drop design experience that supports real-time collaboration by multiple editors, just like in Docs, as well as offering easy access to all content from Calendar, Docs, Drive and Map.
The new Sites also includes themes and layouts designed to scale and flex to any screen size, be it 30-inch monitor or smartphone.
If both Springboard and Sites have just been made available for early adopters, it will be several months before everyone can get their hands on it.
Even then, it still doesn’t come close to SharePoint, not does Raghavan ever claim that it is meant to. This is just another step in the ongoing development of Google for Work, albeit an important one.
Whether the combined efforts across Google for Work over the past few months is enough to persuade originations to move from Office 365, is an entirely different question. And the answer? For the moment, at least, probably not.