Google Apps – Software as a Service to SMEs

What with Skype on Wednesday, it’s turning into a week of major announcements on web applications that should have more than a passing interest for the SME market.
Although they’ve constantly denied …

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22nd February 2007 at 10:22 am

What with Skype on Wednesday, it’s turning into a week of major announcements on web applications that should have more than a passing interest for the SME market.

Although they’ve constantly denied they are competing against Microsoft, Google has been quietly introducing a light weight office suite delivered online for months now. In a logical step it has now launched Google Apps Premier that includes word processor, spreadsheet, webmail, calendar and IM/VoIP service Goggle Talk, as well as web page hosting all for just $50 per user per year.

Most of these services can still be used for free, but your $50 gets you 10Gb of email storage, some integration features as well as service level agreements (SLAs) of 99.9% uptime and 24/7 tech support.

I don’t anticipate a massive percentage of the SME market in the UK or the US to rush to adopt Google Apps and throw away their existing desktop office suite.

It’s all very well Google having a 99.9% SLA, but what about your average ISP, or indeed the average small office’s part-time IT manager? Having all your key documents and applications online is still going to be a difficult philosophical step for small businesses to take. Equally you are imparting a lot of aggregated, behavioral data to Google, adding to its real strength, as Techcrunch says today:

… its powerful algorithms to analyze and contextualize information, combined with its growing catalogue of information to analyze – Google is an epoch defining company. Send the world’s business communication through Google and the machine gets a whole lot smarter.

Ultimately though Google is on the verge of an application that will kill Microsoft Office. What does that application need to be in order to convert business users en masse? Well in my opinion, it’s a light desktop synchronisation tool that lets you read and write your gmail and google docs offline and have everything sync up when you connect. Google must be planning this, surely?

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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  1. […] Here is Alex Bellinger at the UK-based smallbizpodcast: Ultimately, though, Google is on the verge of an application that will kill Microsoft Office. What does that application need to be in order to convert business users en masse? Well in my opinion, it’s a light desktop synchronization tool that let’s you read and write your Gmail and Google Docs offline and have everything sync up when you connect. Google must be planning this, surely? […]

  2. Alex – the world and his dog is predicting the demise of M$. While that might be an interesting idea, it has no basis in reality, nor in historical precedence.

    Google Apps testing will send most folk scuttling back to the Blue Monster pretty quickly. It’s underpowered, (you’re right when you say lightweight) and barely fit for purposes.

    They’ve already had to provide a 1 month freebie because of outtage issues. That’s before we talk about basic features and abilities. Most of which can be outclassed by Zoho and ThinkFree.

    When Google can demonstrate that it understands the needs of business applications, then it might stand a chance. Not yet. These are baby steps.

  3. I wonder. Other than the offline issue, the corporations I’ve worked in could easily have used Gmail and Docs. Both strike me as fit for purpose. Spreadsheet is way under spec, agreed, and powerpoint non-existent, although a Google presentation tool is on the way.

  4. David Terrar says:

    Hi Alex,
    Gmail is absolutely excellent and would work fine for most organizations. The rest of the family (maybe aapart from Jot) are pretty weak – I agree with Dennis. I’d also like to add that, when you look at what M$ is doing by creating products like Windows Live Writer for the blogging world, or promoting the .NET based SaaS solutions with their Emerging Business Team, or with the rest of the Live family (both office and applications), I think they’ll be around for quite a while yet. The mix will change, and maybe they won’t be so dominant in Office apps, but business users will stay using combinations of Office and Live for quite some time.

  5. Hi David, your points mirror an email exchange I had this morning with Dennis. As I said to Dennis: the ‘death of Office’ meme is one of those typically blogospheric hyped angles, but does have a seed of truth, even if not in the immediate future. Office Live could be very much alive and may yet bury Google Apps the same way IE did Netscape. Even if that is the case Office will still be dead and Google Apps will have precipitated it.

  6. David Terrar says:

    Hi Alex,
    Our views on this are closely aligned, however I still don’t think Office will be dead for quite sometime. Until we get to an “always connected” world I’ll need to work off-line as well as on-line, and so I see M$ Office becoming part of a hybrid solution with Live, and other variants like ZOHO and and ThinkFree taking a hybrid approach too. This will be particularly true with business users rather than consumers. To misuse a Frank Zappa line he used on Jazz – “Office is not dead, it just smells funny”.

  7. […] an easy call, but back in February I tentatively predicted what has turned out to be Google Gears: What does that application […]

  8. […] years ago now I anticipated google gears before it appeared. Syncing between the cloud and the desktop was always going to be the killer app […]

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