Google just made a couple of interesting updates to Google Apps -- the ability for administrator to create shared contacts, and a stand-alone contact manager that can be used outside of Gmail.
Google Apps Premier Edition administrators can now create contacts which aren't employees -- these contacts are accessible by employees within the company through any Google Apps service that uses a contact list. In order to create these "shared contacts", one must use the Shared Contacts API that was announced in conjunction with the feature.
In addition to this new API, administrators can enable a new stand-alone contact manager feature that gives users access to their contacts outside of Gmail. This feature is available to both Google Apps Premier Edition and Standard Edition -- however, shared contacts are only available to premier accounts. That said, the contact manager isn't anything particularily special -- it appears to be simply the contact manager from Gmail, without the Gmail shell.
To install the new stand-alone contact manager for your Google Apps account:
- Log into your control panel
- Click "Add more services"
- Enable the "Contacts" service
According to Google, a new "Contacts" link will start appearing for your users in the link bar at the top of each application, however after adding the contacts service, I have yet to see a Contacts link at the top of any service.