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Google set to take on Microsoft Office

Google set to take on Microsoft Office

Following Google's announcement on Thursday that it would offer an enhanced version of its Google Apps, dubbed Google Apps Premier Edition, the company left no doubt about the direction in which it was heading.

Not only has it added key business applications -- a word processor and spreadsheet -- to Google Apps, but the company is offering the kind of support corporate IT would expect: IT management tools, technical support, and service level agreements for uptime.

Even all that, however, does not tell the entire story or give the scope of Google's plans.

In its press announcement and in an interview with a Google executive, Dave Giroud, vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Unit, Google made it clear that it will offer APIs for business integration, thus creating a business platform not unlike what Salesforce.com offers with AppExchange.

If that happens it could become the centre of an application ecosystem that leaves traditional desktop applications in the dust.

The reason some analysts have characterised the announcement as historic rests with the fact that Google is the first top-tier company to offer a 21st century solution that will compete with Microsoft Office, a suite of applications created in the 20th century and well before the Internet or HTML existed.

With the addition of word processing and a spreadsheet as well as support, Google Apps could very well represent a watershed moment in a wave of online applications from many other new companies that some day might overwhelm giant Microsoft.

However, Josh Greenberg, senior analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, offers more cautions than he does encomiums about Google Apps and how successful Google can be against the Redmond giant.

"Google is the number one media company and they have a great search. That doesn't mean they have the credentials to be a player in desktop applications," Greenberg said.

Greenberg says Google needs to "dress up" Google Apps to make it look corporate in terms of security, feature functionality, and interoperability.

Is this a play on Google's part to go head to head against a player in its own backyard, Salesforce.com and its AppExchange? For that to happen it would require a huge uptake on the part of third-party application developers.

Sources say Google is buying up a great deal of dark fiber all around the country and at the same time hiring telecommunications engineers and delivering during the past year or two thousands of server blades to what are called Peering Centers, datacenters where networks converge to optimise connectivity.

This could be happening so that Google can offer the kind of quality of service, so-called five 9s uptime, required by the very biggest of enterprises before they would consider using an online streaming application.

Finally, Google executives are already making it quite clear where they are heading. Both Douglas Merrill, CIO and vice president of Engineering at Google, and Eric Schmidt, CEO, are increasingly going on the record about Google Apps in the enterprise.

"The hardest thing to build is a million-user consumer application with no downtime. We have taken that opportunity to bullet proof [for] large scale enterprise applications," Schmidt said.

Merrill even touches on the current climate of government regulations and the fact that Google Apps were built to meet those new demands.

"We built applications to meet regulatory requirement for even the largest enterprise companies. That means Google Apps already have enterprise security built into them," Merrill said.


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