Office’s Space – Starring: Google

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Google has released a Premier version of their Apps program for businesses. Google Apps are Google powered services/features you can add to your website. Basically Google Apps consist of popular Google applications like Gmail, Calendar and Spreadsheets that you could add to your site for the benefit of your users.

I’ve looked at Google Apps in the past and while I thought they were neat, I generally found myself wondering why folks wouldn’t just go directly to Google. I mean unless you had a website whose visitors were a close-knit group of individuals needing to collaborate on a common set of goals or objectives, where’s the big value? Wait a minute. What if… just what if…Google could find lots of close knit groups needing to work and collaborate on a common set of goals? That would be huge wouldn’t it?

What if businesses could use apps? I mean real businesses. Big ones, little ones, medium ones – whatever. If you look at Apps as it started out… all Google would really have to do would be throw in a few bells and whistles and maybe give some added customization in terms of whether or not Google ads were showing up. All of a sudden you’ve got something for the office (that, incidentally, isn’t Office).

So, now enter Premiere Apps and businesses of all shapes and sizes can add email, spreadsheets, and collaborate to their hearts content – all for $50 per user per year. So what do you think is going to happen when you tell businesses that they can have most (if not all) of the core functionality of Office for $50 per user per year? If nothing else you’re going to have their attention.

Then you tell them that in the same process, they get to dump the vast majority of their email administration woes – since Google is Guaranteeing 99.9% uptime on email. Tack on the fact that the businesses don’t really have to allocate server time, installation headaches or upgrades – since Google is handling it all for you (for the same $50 per user per year).

Transition and training time should be minimal. After all it’s based on currently offered consumer services that, in all probability, the employees are already using at home. Sure, Gmail takes some getting used to, without folders and all that – but it works. Plus, with the kinds of savings $50 per user per year represents for most businesses, they will most likely be able to afford to buy back any love lost over email folders.

Google isn’t the only Office competitor of course, and they’re probably not even the best – yet. Before the open source community gets their collective knickers in a twist: I know, I know, there’s OpenOffice. Thing is, it isn’t as easy, and it requires more maintenance and upkeep. Think about it this way: when versions or compatibility issues change or emerge, do I want to have my IT staff get that all worked out in all the OpenOffice installs on every workstation in the office?  Or… would I prefer to just let Google take care of that for me and go on with my day? That’s an easy one.

The fact that OpenOffice is free and open source supported doesn’t necessarily make it an attractive alternative to businesses. If companies aren’t paying anybody for it, who are they going to call and hold accountable if and when they have a problem? The open source community? I’m sorry. It’s a nice thought, really, but open source office software will never, ever, ever, ever become a threat to Microsoft in the business world.

The Microsoft/Google dynamic has certainly been interesting to watch over the past 3 or 4 years. To me, the race has shaped up to be; can Microsoft become a leading player in Google’s search business before Google can become a leading player in Microsoft’s Office business. I did quick check of prices for Microsoft’s newest Office and while I’m sure most businesses can find better deals on it than I can, I’m not seeing anything in the neighborhood of $50. If Google can make Apps a real alternative for businesses – at that kind of price point, with Google-level uptime, and product support, then February 22, 2007 could be the answer to all kinds geek trivia questions in a few years.

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  • incrediblehelp

    I really cant see how offering a cheaper product will hurt MS short term. What happens when a business associate sends you a MS Excel sheet to review and you cant open it because the whole office is using Google apps?

    Will users be able to open MS documents in Google Apps and vice versa. If yes, then I can see the threat.

    • David A. Utter

      Google’s stuff will open Microsoft formats like doc and xls, and export in those formats too. That makes the decision process in the SMB market kind of interesting. Do you open the doors for business after buying Office and Exchange, and hiring or contracting for support, or do you fork over $50 per user to Google and let them deal with the admin tasks?

      • incrediblehelp

        Well if Google opens up MS file formats and vice versa, then it is a win for the consumer.

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