The white noise level surrounding Google's announcement last night about their new premium offering – Google Apps Premier Edition – is bound to reach epic levels and last quite a while as everyone wraps their head around what has always seemed to me to be an inevitability on a par with the sun rising in the East and setting in th West. No one should be surprised by this announcement.
ZDNet News has the facts:
The new Google Apps Premier Edition costs $50 per user account a year. It includes around-the-clock telephone support, and 10GB of storage per user compared with 2GB. The new edition also includes a guarantee of 99.9 percent uptime for Gmail and application programming interfaces that businesses can use to migrate data, enable single sign-on and do other integration. A free version targeted at educational institutions, Google Apps Education Edition, offers the same features as the premier edition except for the storage size. There is also Google Apps Standard Edition, which is free, but lacks the features of the premier edition.
There's rhapsodic musings (from Marshall Kirkpatrick filling in at TechCrunch):
Beyond competition and concerns, tonight is a good time to recognize the incredible force of innovation that Google is as well. Its nearly full-service suite of sophisticated, integrated online services is something of historic proportion. Google’s technological brilliance is only beginning to be recognized. What do I mean by that? I mean that with its powerful algorithms to analyze and contextualize information, combined with its growing catalogue of information to analyze - Google is an epoch defining company. Send the world’s business communication through Google and the machine gets a whole lot smarter.
A more cautionary tone as taken by Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web:
For now, I'm a bit more cautious about this news. I see it more as just another step for Google towards a full Office suite. There's still no presentations app, CRM.... or JotSpot for that matter! Google Apps is still a fairly loose package of web-based office apps, not as integrated as it could be yet. The strength of a Web Office suite is collaboration and other web native functionality - whereas desktop office suites have much more sophisticated functionality. There's also the small matter of offline functionality (which is starting to appear in web apps, but slowly) and whether businesses want to host their office with an external party like Google.
And the aforementioned white noise, in its ever-expanding glory, can be followed on Techmeme.
Personally, I'm mostly inclined to agree with Richard. This is an important (and inevitable) step by Google and one that does represent a milestone. But there's a lot of work to be done before proclamations of death, defeat, or surrender need to made. Most of the business people I work with are not yet prepared to cast off their Microsoft Office shackles (completely at least) and move to the cloud.
While the Web Workers of the World (which includes a large number of Mac users) rejoice, the reality is that this will not have an immediate impact on Microsoft's fortunes. And they have a big nut to crack convincing their installed base to invest in an upgrade to the just-released Office 2007 which is an infinitely more serious challenge than worrying about this announcement by Google. The CW that Microsoft's biggest competitor is its previous version still holds true. Google Apps Premier Edition just adds a bit of spice to the recipe.