Google Buzz for biz 'not there yet'

Search engine giant says social sharing tool not ready for corporate use yet, but is working on integrating Buzz in Google Apps for enterprises in near future.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

The features for business use in Google Buzz are "not there yet", said a company spokesperson, noting that the social sharing tool was initially launched with the consumer experience in mind.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, a Google spokesperson said the initial launch of Buzz was focused on building a great consumer experience. "[Although] we plan to work on features that will make Buzz work well for businesses and organizations, we're not there yet," he said.

Even though organizations can start using Buzz by signing up for a Gmail account, he noted that until Google adds better business support, organizations may feel they are using a product for individuals.

Launched in early February, Google Buzz is integrated into Gmail users' accounts and aims to become their command center for what Google calls "social sharing".

Despite the initial focus on consumers, Google "definitely" wants to support sharing within a particular domain, said the spokesperson, adding that the company plans to launch Buzz for Google Apps businesses and schools in the next few months.

Never too late into the social game
London-based Vuk Trifkovic, senior analyst at Ovum IT applications, said in an e-mail interview that the analyst firm is "looking forward" to explore the potential of Buzz used in conjunction with Google Apps as a document creation suite.

This potential has not been explored, he said, and the integration is an opportunity for Buzz to differentiate itself from current social network platforms.

With the Internet crowded with social media platforms, some question whether Google is too late into the social network game.

Trifkovic thinks otherwise. He pointed out that Google already has Orkut, which has been a dominant social network in markets such as India and Brazil.

He added that though Buzz was released when the social network platform landscape was already formed, it does not pretend to joust with the rest by replicating features in existing social network platforms such as Facebook and MySpace.

According to Trifkovic, Buzz can compete by filling the gap between microblogging, social networks, e-mail and blogging. However, he wondered whether there would be demand for social network aggregation, pointing out to FriendFeed's failure to "cross the chasm" in 2009.

He also noted that Buzz clients for the Google Android and Apple iPhone OS were well-received, with location-based services another area of opportunity.

In fact, in an e-week.com report, a Google Maps for mobile and Latitude product manager said the company will integrate Buzz for mobile with Google Latitude. Latitude is Google's location-sharing service launched in early February. Vic Gundotra, Google vice president of engineering, at the press announcement of Google Buzz also mentioned that Buzz will be "integrated more tightly" with Latitude in future.

Andrew Walls, research director at Gartner, noted that Buzz's basic service is sound and has the advantage of direct access to "an enormous pool" of Google users.

"The success of Buzz, to a certain extent, will be determined by its multiple interface support, such as through computer, mobile phone, e-mail and other social media aggregators," he said, adding that Buzz will also need to recruit members who will attract a significant number of followers.

As Google does not break down user figures by region, the spokesperson was unable to offer figures on Asia-Pacific users. However, he noted that millions of users worldwide have checked out Buzz, which has "tens of millions" of posts and comments, particularly from mobile phones.

As Buzz was tested internally before its public launch, privacy-related issues were overlooked. The spokesperson said the company responded by tweaking the service and will continue to make improvements based on user feedback.

While Gartner's Walls praised the search engine giant for reacting quickly to privacy complaints, he noted that the incident highlighted the dangers of aggregating data into the hands of a single provider without strong control over how data is exchanged between applications and systems.

He noted that some users have reacted by splitting application use across multiple providers to establish stronger barriers between public and private data collection.

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