The Burton Group has released a new research report, entitled "Google Apps in the Enterprise: A Promotion-Enhancing or Career-Limiting Move for Enterprise Architects?" (Warning: Spoiler ahead. And it's especially "spoiling" for those who are counting on Google to finally give Microsoft Office, with its 90-plus percent market share, some serious competition.)
Burton's 55-page study concludes that Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) shouldn't be seen as a quick and obvious replacement for Microsoft Office -- or any other Office online and/or offline competitors.
"The seductive price (of GAPE, at $50 per user per year) can spell trouble for enterprise architects and their companies if they don't do their homework." Burton analyst Guy Creese says architects need to make sure they understand the limitations of GAPE's "rudimentary feature set" and implement slowly, if at all.
"Quickly adopting GAPE without understanding its quirk or looking at other alternatives is likely to become a career-limiting move," the Burton study says. "Happily, looking at the larger picture -- studying a variety of SaaS (software-as-a-service) based collaboration and content solutions -- is a career-enhancing move."
Burton doesn't see GAPE, which Google rolled out in February 2007, as unimportant. Far from it. The study itemizes the pluses and minuses of Google's solution. On the plus side:
- Don't need to pay for unnecessary power-user licenses
- No software to install and no continual upgrades
- Minimal, if any, training required
- Relatively easy to include workers outside the enterprise
- Online documents are not scattered on C drives or fileshares
- Integration of past application silos
Among Google Apps' weaknesses, according to Burton:
- Power users and sophisticated documents are not supported
- Records management is difficult and requires extra work
- 99.9% uptime guarantee is for Gmail only
- Google is not liable for lost data, profits or revenue
- Live telephone support is 17/5 (not 24/7)
- Difficult to plan for product capabilities and rollouts
Burton also notes that "Google itself can take some getting used to. The company has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a 'known only to Google' schedule. Furthermore, some companies are leery of entrusting their corporate documents to a company that makes its living from analyzing content and displaying it to the world."
Before Microsoft haters start taking aim at (me) the messenger, let me say that I would love to see Microsoft Office get some real competition. Lack of competition is what leads to bloated, overpriced products. If Google's move into this space spurs Microsoft to be more responsive and release better products, I am all for it.
At the same time, I am tired of Google getting a free pass. Microsoft's competitors should be judged just as harshly as Microsoft. If online services that do not work offline go down -- for maintenance or whatever reason -- the outage should be considered as a detriment, not a growing pain.
Do you see Google as the company most likely to give Microsoft Office a run for its money? Why/why not?