Google Apps Doesn't Compete

Google Apps Doesn't Compete

Summary: Google Apps doesn't compete with Office, it complements it. And because of how it's delivered, it creates an ecosystem that allows other companies to add value to the overall mix, enriching Google in the process.


The blogosphere has been abuzz with gushing commentary about Google Apps. Some of it is about how Google is now taking on Microsoft head to head. This couldn't be more wrong.

Google Apps is a completely different beast than Office even though they both seem to do the same thing: manage email and calendars, edit documents, and build spreadsheets. In this case, the means to this end makes a significant difference.

Google Apps is a Web application and, as such, is subject to law of mash-ups: anything that can be mashed-up will. An online application like Google Apps has the potential to become an ecosystem for other businesses that add value to overall mix in ways that even a company with resources like Google can't match.

There are a few examples already. Sxip Identity announced that they're providing integration with Google Apps to provide single sign-on capabilities across an enterprise and better user management. This provides some foundational elements for further integrating Google Apps into the enterprise.

That may sound pretty much the same as what you might do by integrating two pieces of software in a traditional model, so I offer up a second example. DirectPointe (disclaimer, I'm on the board of directors) offers an enterprise file, print, desktop management solution for small businesses that includes Google Apps as a "checkbox" in the order form.

The last example is especially interesting because it mitigates some of the weaknesses that others have pointed out in Google Apps. For example, you need a domain name to use to Pro version of Google Apps. Getting one and tying it into Google Apps is beyond many small businesses. The DirectPointe integration makes that whole process manageable.

In addition, DirectPointe provides eService as part of it's product and can answer your employees questions, even if Google won't. Having support is critical to small businesses who may not have IT staff on site. If Google Apps isn't meant to appeal to the Fortune 500, then it needs this kind of service support to appeal to small and medium sized businesses.

For their own business reasons, Google isn't providing a complete solution, but because of how Apps is delivered, others can layer features and services on top of Google's business. In essence, Apps is embedable in other products and services, something most software applications don't support well.

Of course, this isn't a unique feature of Apps, it's just a fact of life for well-designed applications on the Internet. Google's betting big, not just with Apps, but with other things like Maps as well, that letting other's mash-up their stuff to add value will make Google more valuable as well.

Google isn't competing with Office. They're competing with non-consumption. That is, they're enabling uses that don't exist today. In this world, Office and Apps can live side-by-side and both succeed--no one has to lose.

Topic: Apps

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  • Whoops, ZDNet team fails to actually USE Google Apps prior to story!

    Guys,you best look at Google Apps - I mean use it!

    OFFICE is it's target boys and it does a great job of it too!

    Our company (Fortune 50) signed up for it!!
    • I agree

      Google Apps is going not only after Office, but also Office 2007/Share Point. I don't think, however, Google Apps currently is at the level of power as Office 2007, or even Open Office, but it is a start. I assume Google will ultimately want to create a portable desktop where one can use applications through subscriptions as direct completion against Windows OS. Think of it, no matter where you are, or on what platform you are browsing, you have your own desktop. (Also, I heard from Microsoft employees that Google is considered its number 1 threat to its market dominance.)
      • Not a new idea and just weak right now

        The browser was supposed to replace the Windows, and then it was Java, the thin client and so on. It?s just getting old.

        There just isn't really much in the Google apps that haven?t been done before, and to be honest, they suck compared to rich client applications. Office 2007 & SharePoint are just far superior to the Google apps. As important as document creation is for some, saving a few bucks here and there isn?t worth the frustration of using underpowered software.

        Everyone gets on Microsoft for not being innovative, but the Office Suite is simply the best that there is right now, and all others seem to do in this space is come up with clones that don?t measure up.

        Yes, Office can be expensive, and it would be nice to see some real competition in this space. People are going to be creating documents till the end of time and surely someone can do better.
    • Yes, the truth that MS does not want you to know is that 90% of the people

      use 10% of the features, and Google has over 50%.

      But, GoogleApps do not currently work off-line, and they do not yet sell a box so that all data can be kept in-house.

      It will be exciting to see the features added to FireFox to solve the off-line problem and make cloud applications more interactive.
    • I've used it; no.

      I've looked at it. It doesn't support any of the features that Excel users use on a daily basis.

      Named ranges, fill series, autofilter...

      Not to mention the complete absence of scripting -- throw away all your old macros and rebuild them as mash-ups.

      Google Apps is a fun little toy, but it's no more a threat to big businesses' MSOffice dominance than GMail is to Exchange.
      • I've used it; no.

        Google Apps is a mere shadow, compared with the funtionality of MS Office or OpenOffice. I'm a business of one employee, and Google Apps isn't even useful in my simple applications, let alone being able to produce documents that meaningfully can be opened and used by MS Ofice users.
        Jack Fuller
  • No, doesn't compete now, but, they will slowley add things, and fix the

    off-line problem. They will also add the in-house box for the "all data has to be here" crowd. But, applications are moving to the cloud. Google IS working on additions to Firefox that will make it easy to fix the off-line problem, and also make interaction richer and faster.

    How many years did Microsoft work on Word/Office before it became a threat to WordPerfect??

    Microsoft is not ignoring this, but they are also in a state of denial.
  • No, the authors are right on this one

    [b][i]Google isn't competing with Office. They're competing with non-consumption. That is, they're enabling uses that don't exist today. In this world, Office and Apps can live side-by-side and both succeed–no one has to lose.[/i][/b]
    Can an office suite become as transparent as an online email client? That's google's goal, and I'm not sure it will work. People want their productivity software to resident on their system (Thinkfree loads apps on your HD when you're offline and then syncs them later). And forget the percentages of what people do and don't use. Google, Zoho, Thinkfree, etc. are extensions of the desktop.

    Where Google is taking on Microsoft is by adopting the OASIS OpenDocument (ODF) format in all its apps. That's the future, not Microsoft's proprietary OXML.
  • does history matter?

    Perhaps its because of all the innovation happening in cool gadgets, perhaps it's the rarified air around big money IPOs and those who still dream of striking oil (metaphor intentional). Whatever the reason it does sometimes seem like the myriads of folks hovering around the various tech communities don't have time for history.

    Too bad. For the most part, we are still the same people now who collectively made these choices in the not-so-distant past. It would make some sense to see how the Google/MS scenario stacks up, and which similarities will get repeated.

    Why isn't IBM the top producer of pcs today? Or Osborne, or Atari, or Apple? Why is OS/2 gone, with parts resurrected in new shapes? Who dominates the business accounting software market and is that a secure position? Are there more, or fewer, alternatives to MS Office products available and is their use increasing or decreasing? (and by the way, what happened to Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar and WordPerfect? Where is MS Works, in comparison to, say, MS Office?

    There are, of course, lots of reasons, and to some extent I'm cherry picking the examples. Yet the point remains--when it comes to using computers as tools it isn't the quality of the product that becomes the best determiner of ultimate success.

    Instead, we see two patterns. In markets where significant centralized control is possible single integrated solutions should be the favorites. When you are working on a workstation in a company that holds public floggings of employees who try to run unauthorized software on the machines, a MS-style Office package will be the likely survivor. Of course, MS doesn't have nearly the grip on this segment as others--in this sort of setting you are as likely to be running a non-MS operating system that came with the workstation.

    In the wild, wild west of the consumer and small/mid-sized business world, customizable--even modular--tends to triumph in the long run. It seems that folks are even willing to fork out their hard-earned pay to buy some little piece that does a particular small task with particular flair.

    For the market in which you have diffuse decision-making structures, such as when I buy my computer and decide what to run on it, those centerpieces that make customization easy will tend to come out ahead.

    Of course, the customization sword is two-edged, and cuts two ways.

    Not only will I insist on purchasing the product that will allow me to run the little application that my group of computer-friends love, but that product had better be able to interface with whatever applications my spouse relies upon.

    Looking at it this way, the nod goes to Google, if they deliver on their promise.

    With the cost of the MS suite continuing to rise and the hidden cost of retraining to utilize the new MS Office/Vista package, we very might be seeing one of the shake down periods. If that is the case, if Google can produce/attract enough partners to offer a fully operational product, it will likely come out ahead.

    Microsoft faces a challenge here, in that for those who are connected to the internet and are using it most of the time, the necessity to buy and upgrade off-network software will become an obstacle.

    Even if MS is able to successfully integrate their office app package with an online version, there will always be the problem of incompatible versions. For example, for each service/security upgrade will the online service remain unpatched until the patch cycle for off-line apps?

    My money on google.Less corporate neurosis about cooperation, instant compatability with whatever new device can access the net, a single update/patch pathway.
  • RE: Google Apps Doesn't Compete

    It doesn't because it needs explaining and training for most to use.

    You can call on a Microsoft rep to to train but who do you have to come out and train for goog apps?

    No one and you cheap low paid IT person is just a nice person but is not capable to train and the higher paid IT person is not going to do it for free.

    This will not work unless Google start a re-seller program or invents their own code that company to assemble and re-sell as their own app and make $$$.
  • RE: Google Apps Doesn't Compete

    Setting up a custom domain with google apps "beyond many small businesses"??? It takes an hour of time and 7 dollars. How is this "beyond" small businesses? Oh... right... because you are trying to sell the more manageable approach that you are part owner of.
  • RE: Google Apps Doesn't Compete

    son, i dissapointment in <a href="">enterprise collaboration software</a>