Google's Schmidt makes enterprise app case as consumer, corporate lines blur

In a room full of chief information officers, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made his case for the search giant's enterprise products adding that the boundary between a corporate user and a consumer "is becoming less and less."Speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium 2009 in Orlando in a Q&A with analysts Whit Andrews and Hung LeHong, Schmidt added the consumer and enterprise application market are increasingly merging.

In a room full of chief information officers, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made his case for the search giant's enterprise products adding that the boundary between a corporate user and a consumer "is becoming less and less."

Speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium 2009 in Orlando in a Q&A with analysts Whit Andrews and Hung LeHong, Schmidt added the consumer and enterprise application market are increasingly merging.

"We don't distinguish between enterprise and non-enterprise (customers). We assume that boundary is becoming less and less," said Schmidt, who added that applications will span consumers and businesses. "We'll keep coming up with ways to span the bridge between the consumer and business."

Case in point: Google Wave. Schmidt said he doesn't think of Google Wave "as a consumer app at all." Wave is a new way to collaborate, said Schmidt and its features are "applicable to the corporation."

Schmidt encouraged corporate buyers to be skeptical about Google's offerings and hold the search giant accountable. He told IT buyers to evaluate the products and if there are problems to let Google know. Schmidt said Google was determined to get where enterprises needed it to go.

Schmidt thinks that the enterprise business for Google can be a multi-billion dollar one---actually "humongous"---just behind the display ad business. That's some heady growth considering that Gartner calculated that for every dollar Google makes, about 3 cents come from enterprise buyers.

Among other topics:

  • On Gmail, Schmidt said he was worried that Google priced its business apps too high ($50 a user). Largest number of seats for Google runs about 30,000 users. Schmidt said the goal right now is to gain users for its enterprise apps. "We count users, not revenue," said Schmidt.
  • Core revenue in enterprise business is growing much faster than the ad business. Of course, Schmidt didn't divulge hard figures. He added that Gmail growth is accelerating and the combination of consumers and business are driving that scale. "We eat our own dog food and do it every day," said Schmidt. "If it breaks we know it first."
  • Schmidt said the company is "inventing the future along the way."
  • Schmidt said the company wants to continue to charge for the enterprise products given the support needed. The company mulled over offering its corporate apps for free, but decided that corporations would likely want more support.
  • Ad support for enterprise accounts was never seriously considered. Schmidt said you don't want ads on a corporate desktop.
  • Enterprises are frustrated with out-dated architectures, said Schmidt.
  • Schmidt said it's working to offer more enterprise class email features for document management and retention.
  • On the Chrome OS, Schmidt said Google has been working with various hardware makers and was surprised how cheap hardware has become. "I have no idea how these guys make money on those margins," said Schmidt. In a year, enterprises can procure a netbook for a price that's 5x cheaper than other products.
  • "We're starting to make significant money on YouTube," said Schmidt.
  • HTML 5.0 can allow Web developers to build applications as good as local PC versions. "The vision is occurring," he said. "The question is how fast you can deploy it."
  • Cloud computing is about trust. And that trust is built person by person. Schmidt said enterprise is the customer and some companies will be really tight about adopting cloud computing. Others will be more liberal. "Most companies will find a middle ground," said Schmidt. In other words, the hybrid cloud approach will be the norm.
  • Schmidt also promised that it wouldn't hold corporate data hostage and would allow data to be pulled from any Google app. He said the Data Liberation Front---a small group to ensure data isn't held hostage in the cloud---is keeping Google honest.

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