Google's emerging Web Office

Summary:Yesterday, I interviewed Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise.  We discussed concepts of the elusive Google Web Office, licensing Google's infrastructure software, search and Google's overall enterprise product strategy.

Yesterday, I interviewed Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise.  We discussed concepts of the elusive Google Web Office, licensing Google's infrastructure software, search and Google's overall enterprise product strategy. The first part of the interview covers the Web office and infrastructure software. I'll I've posted the second part on enterprise searchlater today.

I first queried Girouard about a Google Office suite, 'My general belief now is that we are not going to be an infrastructure company.' which has been a topic of speculation for months. “Web Office--it’s a kin to saying where is the Google mainframe or buggy whip, or picking up where Corel left off, with word processing, presentation and spreadsheets,” Girouard said. “We think about what would be useful today and how people would access it. We aren’t going to revisit the battles that have already been fought.”

"We have no preconceived notion that people will stop using [Microsoft] Office,” Girouard continued. "But for smaller businesses we can contribute some usefulness on the edges and help them be more productive.” He went on to describe the changing business landscape, in which virtual companies are sprouting with no central physical location. “Think of six continent businesses—they could be 20 employees." He offered MySQL a great example of a company with widely distributed employees.

Google is assembling and testing out products and services that will be competitive in the new wave of service-enabled productivity applications, such as Microsoft's Office Live. The company is experimenting with a hosted service that includes domain hosting, email, calendar, instant messaging, desktop search and administrative services. “We are testing it out in a handful of universities, providing email to students and some small businesses,” Girouard said. “It’s exploratory, and we haven’t determined what is or for pay or what features to focus on next. We will ride the innovation curve of our consumer facing business and layer on features, such as administration.”

Girouard said that a suite of hosted services, beyond search,  for corporations hasn’t been formulated. “We haven’t defined it up front. We have to think hard about what consumer applications would be useful in a corporate environment.”


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Writely, a Web word processor Google acquired in March 2006, could be included in Google’s Web office suite. “It’s quite possible to be part of that. Once we have a hosted service it’s logical to add other components.” In addition, Google’s Blogger application is a natural extension, he said. I asked about a Google number crunching application, and Girouard said, “It’s important...I can’t comment beyond that." Of course, with its open APIs, Web services and mashups, a Google Web office could further extend its capabilities and ecosytem as Salesforce.com has done with its platform.

Girouard noted that the enterprise group applies the learning from the consumer facing business to determine what get released onto the Web. “We focus on simple interfaces that have proven themselves from data we see on consumer side,” he said. “Things could be worked on for years, but if it doesn’t add value, it won’t show up in the Google interface.”

Regarding Google's secret datacenter sauce, Girouard maintained that Google will not license its infrastructure software or become a hardware provider. “My general belief now is that we are not going to be an infrastructure company. We are not going to sell storage systems or routers or middleware. Our focus is on end-user facing applications. Email compliance is not a Google solution.”

I asked about licensing Google’s server clustering technology and file system to external parties. “It’s not something we are actively discussing,” Girouard said. “The applications that touch the vast majority of end users, and where we can differentiate on a better end user experience, that’s how we evaluate today what we do.”

I also asked Girouard if Google is considering moving upstream to larger enterprises with a suite of hosted services. “We are not focused on companies like General Electric, but as we grow our capabilities we will begin to appeal to larger businesses,” he said. 

Part Two: Girouard on Google's enterprise search strategy.

Topics: Google

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