The GDrive is here and its name is Memeo Connect

Memeo Connect 2.0 is the ultimate acknowledgement that, for better or worse, businesses still run on Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. Remarkably, though, it helps make the case for Google Apps rather than Office Web Apps and Sharepoint.

I know, I know, we've heard about the fabled GDrive before. Google has to offer a competitor to Microsoft's SkyDrive, right? With today's release of Memeo Connect 2.0 Beta, they're pretty darned close, at least for their enterprise users.

Memeo first caught my attention when they released an iPad app for managing and accessing your Google Docs with a slick UI that fit the iPad content consumption model very well. At the time, the company also offered Memeo Connect 1.0, a relatively basic tool for Google Apps Premiere customers to sync files into Google's cloud. As Memeo's Spencer Chen and Ray Combs (Director of Strategy and Business Development and Director of Product Management, respectively) explained to me yesterday, Version 1.0 was essentially a proof of concept and a rapid deployment to really develop hooks into the Apps API.

Memeo Connect remains an application that is truly only useful to Premier Apps customers, since the Apps API doesn't allow uploading or full access to the Google Doclist in non-premier accounts. That being said, it's primarily enterprise customers who would benefit from an application like connect anyway (and these customers will be paying for Premier). The major exception is Education Apps users who enjoy most of the Premier features, but still can't make full use of Memeo's products due to less obvious API restrictions.

Now, however, Version 2.0 can legitimately be called the "GDrive." Memeo's press release detailed the key features of the new Windows and OS X application:

  • Full text, enterprise search
  • Multi-select capability (delete)
  • Ability to cancel all uploads
  • Advanced document filtering option by Office and Google categories and file types
  • 'Download All' Google Docs option
  • Trash now shows how many items it in
  • Integrated Site License Server
  • Real-time Account status panel
  • Folders Shared with Me filter
  • View Online and Share Online context menu options for Folders

Next: So why not just use Office and SharePoint? »

Although Google is still not offering a GDrive as a native part of its consumer or paid Apps products, Memeo is a key partner leveraging the Apps API to deliver a product that is arguable quite a bit more elegant and enterprise-friendly than many may have envisioned for a GDrive from Google (most of us were simply looking for the ability to upload any files into cloud-based storage associated with our Gmail or Apps accounts).

However, once Memeo Connect is installed, users will see a GDrive within their computer that looks, feels, and can be navigated and written to like any other network drive in Windows or Mac OS X (no Linux support yet, although the Memeo folks claim that the application can run under emulation).
I had to ask, though, if Memeo and Google are acknowledging that businesses still live in a desktop world, where Word, PowerPoint, and Excel remain dominant, why should businesses choose Google Apps and Memeo rather than Office 2010, Office Web Apps, and Sharepoint? After all, Office now natively allows users to save to their SkyDrive and access high-fidelity versions of their documents online. Both of the Memeo execs argued, though, that Google's real-time collaboration and workflow features were well ahead of Microsoft's offerings and were compelling reasons to deploy Apps as a groupware platform, even if they still needed to integrate desktop productivity documents via an app like Memeo.

Obviously, Memeo has a vested interest in ensuring that businesses share this point of view. However, I have to say that the application so seamlessly integrates native Google documents, stored and shared Office documents, and local and cloud storage that it would be very easy to make a case for deployment of Apps and Memeo. Highly heterogeneous employees, some of whom are completely comfortable creating content in the cloud, can easily interact and collaborate via Google's cloud with employees who are far more wedded to their desktops.

Memeo Connect also largely solves the offline access issues surrounding cloud storage. When users are offline, both native Google Docs and Office files stored on the GDrive will open either as PDFs or in the appropriate Office application. Changes are synced to the GDrive when users come back online.

Memeo's demo video gives a sense of just how seamless the integration is:

Although an enterprise looking to leverage the cloud and powerful desktop tools could certainly make a case for an Office/SharePoint 2010 deployment, Memeo Connect allows that same enterprise organization to make a case for a Google Apps deployment as well. Particularly with their $9/account pricing model (the software can be installed on unlimited machines), Memeo Connect provides an extremely cost-effective and robust solution for the many businesses walking the line between fully embracing the cloud and needing access to powerful desktop applications. Especially in groups that don't already have a significant investment in Microsoft infrastructure, Memeo Connect 2.0 goes a long ways towards leveling the playing field with SharePoint.