Google's emerging Web Office

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.

TOPICS: Google

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.”


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 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.

Topic: Google

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  • Google vs Microsoft - the battle is already over

    Everyone is hyping the potential for Google and Web 2.0 to eclipse Microsoft.

    Just like the DotBomb era of a few years ago, so-called analysts and everyday people are thinking not with their heads, but with their egos and emotion.

    Besides the current quandry that "Do No Evil" Google has become the "The Evil Empire" (censorship, opaque policies, click fraud ripoffs, restricted stock voting rights being unequal, et. al.) and Microsoft has become the "kindler, gentler partner", bashers are still intent on claiming newfangled, still unproven web-based Web 2.0 apps/sites will kill off the entire existing software industry aka Microsoft Office and ecosystem.

    I have a few observations to put forth:

    Microsoft is outflanking Google. Plain and simple:

    Product strategy: Microsoft is embracing both online (Web) and offline (thick client) real-world application usage. This is the "killer app" that Google cannot fight. No matter how many WiFi spots, broadband lines, and 3G (EVDO/Edge) cell links are deployed, there will always be a need for keeping the "personal" in personal computing and being able to work without a net. Remember, we used to used PC's and be very happy and productive without email and without any Internet.

    Microsoft understands this - so does Google. But Google's solution -- providing free/ad-sponsored WiFi in a few cities and buying up dark fiber on the rumor of possibly building their own huge nationwide network may extend connectivity, but cannot avoid the need for personal computing.

    Microsoft is catching up and in some areas surpassing Google in providing online Google-like web services. It's only a matter of time before Microsoft achieves parity in most areas and superiority in some. Let's not argue over the specifics, the key is that soon Microsoft will have respectable array of Web/Online solutions. As we all know, with Microsoft the winning strategy is often just being "good enough" to the competition on features and raw capability.

    Microsoft is innovating technically by focusing on collaboration in a big way. You have to really understand the depth and breadth of Microsoft's client apps and server product line to "get this", but Microsoft understands that the limitation with computing today isn't the lack of web based software suites but the ongoing challenge of getting people to communicate and work with each other. (Especially in business or any other organizated situation).

    With Office 12 and Vista/Longhorn and all the new backend servers (SharePoint 2007, Groove 2007, etc.) there is a huge unified effort to make collobaration by people as the big common new "feature" and there is huge progress with all this new stuff. (Take a deep look at the beta, actually use the new SharePoint, Groove, InfoPath, etc. and you'll start to get the "lightbulb" moment of understanding).

    "Occasionally Connected" are the underrated buzzwords starting to come from Microsoft that sums up the offline/online and collaborate end-run they will have against Google.

    II -- Microsoft is a "lean, mean, fighting machine". After many years in this industry, Microsoft has strong technical and executive leadership. Bill Gates and Ozzie are tech czars focusing every nook and cranny of Microsoft on delivering an integrated, cradle-to-grave solution.

    OTOH - Google is letting every engineer spend 20% of their time on anything they want, throw it against the wall, and see what sticks. We are already seeing the results of management by anarchy: In reality, other than Google Maps, Google Earch, and GoogleMail/GoogleTalk, there has been little of substance in the way of new "products" from Google. Certainly, given the billions of dollars and thousands of engineers, their actual results in innovating underwhelmes.

    Finally, Microsoft has built a finacially strong company with a diverse revenue base. Microsoft makes money from many sources including online, offline, and video games (XBox). Google has a single revenue stream (pay-per-click ads) and it is not yet proven this is a long-term, stable source of money.

    What if hackers release a new-generation of "ad blocking" free software that can remove "sponsored ads" from webpages?

    Sure, Microsoft MSN would lose their new AdCenter revenue, but that's a small slice of the pie. If all of Google Adsense ads were blocks, their revenue would drop to almost zero.
    • I agree 100%

      Occasionally connected is the key here. Applications that allow me to extend to the internet when conencted will win out in the long run. It seems that the ZDNET writers all have Google stock these days. No other explanation for their nonsense.
  • What Web Office?

    He said Google is not interested in Web Office, but that doesn't stop the interviewer implying that it's going to happen etc etc.

    Besides on-line search and maps the other Google apps are all client side - desktop search, toolbar, talk, Earth. That's their 'innovative' new technology is it? While they all function, they look like they were built in the 1980s - perhaps Google could hire some interface designers as well as software engineers.

    The problems with security, reliability and stability are always glossed over in this Web 2.0 hype. From the interview, I can see Google at least appreciates the problems and will probably be building more client side apps that are 'occasionally connected' to give some low-rent competition to Microsoft. However, like the other post pointed out, their revenue streams seem narrow and potentially fragile, so they better diversify fast.