Richi Jennings

All your apps are belong to Google (and clever tire)

August 29, 2006 6:02 AM EDT
Oh noes, it's IT Blogwatch, in which Google wants to take over your domain. Not to mention the best behaved car tire in Australia...

Nancy Weil brings us up to speed:
Google Inc. has launched Google Apps for Your Domain, a suite of hosted collaboration applications for small to medium-size businesses, universities and other groups, with plans to expand to larger companies by year's end. Organizations will be able to sign up for the beta version of the free browser-based, hosted-application service at www.google.com/a, which Google launched today. The service for larger companies won't be free; details regarding what it will entail and the pricing structure are to be announced when the rollout date is set. The free offering will include Gmail and Google's Calendar, Talk and Page Creator applications, all of which have either been rolled out in recent months or which the company has been integrating with each other this year. More applications will be added over time ... Google's online word processor and spreadsheet are likely targets ... Google isn't publicly talking about whom it sees as the competition either, but the suite seems squarely aimed at, for instance, IBM's Notes collaboration software.
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The intent is to allow companies and organizations access to collaboration applications even if they can't afford internal IT support or don't want to devote IT resources to those tasks.
Dan Farber looks to the future:
Microsoft's base of Office users–most of the business users in the developed world–aren't going to defect to Google or other products like Zoho's suite overnight. And, Microsoft is developing its own suite of hosted Windows Live applications and looking forward to Vista improving the overall Windows applications experience. But, there is disruption in the air, and the Microsoft Office monopoly is definitely going to face a major competitive threat in the near future…
James Yu calls it an, "Uphill battle":
After a slow but deliberate investment in online web applications that mirror Office applications, Google has finally let the water out of the hydrant. Let the games begin!
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Basically, there are no real suprises–just the usual clean and functional interfaces that we’ve come to expect from Google. So, should Microsoft be shaking in their boots? With the push of Vista and its increased document sharing capabilities, Google is directly attacking Microsoft’s turf. But, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for Google.
But Microsoft's Don Dodge madly tries to reframe the news:
Google Apps for Your Domain is all the rage today. The headlines should read "Google takes another step in competing with OpenOffice and Web 2.0 startups". The media headline writers see it as a showdown between Google Apps and Microsoft Office, but it really isn't anything close.
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Google Apps do not compete with Microsoft Office, they compete with Sun's StarOffice, OpenOffice, and the free Web 2.0 crowd. Gmail does not compete with Outlook, just like Hotmail doesn't compete with Outlook.
John Biggs:
I personally love me some disembodied web apps and Google is set to deliver us all from the horror of the thick client
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If Office Sharepoint Ninja Server 2007 Vista doesn’t start getting a real, viable online component, Office is going to be in a bit of trouble. The concept behind browser-based apps has always been sound - a browser is everywhere, it’s eminently usable and can be fairly intuitive, and offloading the admin work and installation headaches to a third party is always fun and cheap. Now, however, we’ve got to deal with the negatives.

First, offline editing probably isn’t much fun with Google Apps until they create an on-disk, synced cache like .Mac. Then there’s the clear “baby’s first spreadsheet”-ness of most of these apps, at present, except for calendar and mail. Calendar and mail apps are best when they are simple. Spreadsheets and editors are best when their power appears in a just-in-time manner, offering all sorts of stuff you never thought you’d use with just one click.
Mark Evans:
After much braying from the sidelines, Google watchers are finally getting what they wanted ...  I find this difficult to believe - little, old Google wants to grab foothold with corporate users by offering tools so that people can open Office documents shared on the Web. That does not seem to make much sense given most corporate computers have Office installed. You have to believe Google wants a chunk of the lucrative Office market that Microsoft has dominated for far too long.
Brij Singh:
We have been beta testing [the Google Apps for Your Domain] service for nearly a month now ... we are quite satisfied.
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If you can collaborate over word document and spreadsheet in real-time then its huge. It’s quite obvious that the collaboration is a big deal in multi-location businesses. I think increasingly finance folks in small companies will challenge their geeks and ask them to use Google tools to save on licensing fees.
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Now this may come as a side note in this debate but I don’t see much market for wiki in the office collaboration suite. If Writely can allow upto 50 users collaborating on the same document then why you need to spend countless hours learning pesky formatting rules?
Dare Obasanjo has heard it all before:
If this sounds familiar to you, that's because it is. This is pretty much the same sales pitch as Microsoft's Office Live. Right down to having tiered versions that range from free (i.e. Office Live Basics) to paid SKUs for businesses with more 'advanced' needs (i.e. Office Live Essentials). With Google officially entering this space, I expect that the Office Live team will now have some pressure on their pricing model as well as an incentive to reduce or remove some of the limitations in the services they offer (e.g. the fairly low limits on the amount of email addresses one can create per domain).
As usual, the technology blogs are full of the Microsoft vs. Google double standard. When Microsoft announced Office Live earlier this year, the response was either muted or downright disappointed because it wasn't a Web-based version of Microsoft Office.
Scoble, R. has the meta-story:
See how this works? One, or a few reporters get an exclusive, then everyone has to jump in too. So, I figure since it’s Google that the blogs would be all over this one ... I can’t find a single blogger who got leaked this information along with the big-city newspapers
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Damn, did we all piss off Google PR or something or are they trying to hide something? Well, hope that PR strategy works for Google. In the experiences of other companies that have gotten lucky enough to get all that PR it really doesn’t work out all that well unless the influentials also back up the hype.

The funny thing is that at PodTech we’re actually using most of the “Google Office Suite.” I hate it. It isn’t even in the same ballpark yet as having an Exchange server. Maybe that’s why Google didn’t want to show it to influentials first. They’d tell the big-city press crew to take a pass on this until it at least gets close to Microsoft’s enterprise offerings.
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And finally... The best behaved car tire in Australia [hat tip: GMSV]
Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.