At AllBusiness.com, I blogged about the ongoing war between Office and Google Apps–as seen in recent Microsoft blog posts and this week’s Google Atmosphere conference–and why I’m not taking sides.
Tag Archives | Google Apps
Back in February of 2010, Google announced that it was giving up on Google Gears, its neat-but-ultimately-unsatisfying technology that helped make Web services work even when the Web wasn’t available. The company said that it made more sense to concentrate on using HTML5 technologies to build offline capabilities into its Web apps. And now it’s done so, with offline-capable versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.
I’m pleased to say that I’m going to be writing a column every other week for the folks at AllBusiness.com. It’s about small-business technology, and the first installment–a look at Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps–is up now.
I have two Gmail accounts: a personal one and a Google Apps one (at Technologizer.com) which I use for work. The fact that I can’t be logged into both at one time in the same browser is a hassle. I’d hoped today’s introduction of a Gmail feature that lets you grant access to another user (including yourself, at another Gmail account) would fix this. But it turns out you can only let in e-mail accounts at the same domain, so the new feature doesn’t help me. (When I’m on a Mac, I use a program called Mailplane to hop back and forth between the two accounts with one click.)
Google Apps–the suite of Web-based productivity tools that’s useful for everybody from individual consumers to big businesses–is among Google has come up with to date. But if you have a Google Apps account, there’s been far more stuff that wasn’t available than was: everything from major services such as Picasa and Google Voice to potentially useful obscurities such as Google Base. That’s because logging into a Google Apps account only provided access to Gmail, the Google Docs office editors, Google Sites, and a few other services.
Starting today, that’s changed: Sign up for Google Apps, and you can use your account to access more than sixty Google services. Why did it take so long? The company says it wanted to make sure that its infrastructure was ready to handle it. And it wasn’t always sure that companies would want a consumery service such as the Picasa’s photo albums to be part of a business-oriented offering like Google Apps. But it says that many customers have asked for Picasa, Blogger, and other services that haven’t been part of Apps. And some of the new arrivals, such as Google Analytics, are very businessy.
Passwords may be by far the Web’s most common form of security, but they’re far from airtight: some get stolen, and others are alarmingly easy to figure out. Two-factor authentication, using both a password and something else–preferably a something else that’s tough for an intruder to determine–is much safer.
So today, Google is announcing two-factor authentication for its Google Apps suite of online productivity tools. A new feature lets businesses which use Apps add another layer of security by generating random codes which employees get on their phones–Google is making apps available for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry . To get into your account, you’ve got to enter both your password and a freshly-generated code.
The new feature is free and optional, and users who adopt it can specify certain PCs as trusted machines, permitting them to access their accounts with only a password. It’s available for paid, education, and government accounts starting today; users of the freebie Standard edition will get it “in the months ahead.”
At a press event at its headquarters this morning, Google announced Google Apps for Government–a new version of its Google Apps productivity suite that’s been certified by the US government as meeting its security requirements.
The new version is a variant of Google Apps Premier edition, and includes the same core apps: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Groups, Video, and Postini. Pricing is the same as for Google Apps Premier: $50 per user per year.
Memeo Connect, which my colleague David Worthington tried and liked a few weeks ago, is an app that lets Google Apps users sync their documents and other files to a PC or Mac so they can get access to them even when they’re offline. And as of today, it’s available in a beta of version 2.0, which lets you get at synced files not only in Memeo’s app but in Windows Explorer or the OS X finder, as well as in file open/save dialog boxes. The sync is two-way, so anything you drag or save into this repository gets moved back to Google Apps’ storage once you’re back online. And as before, Connect can handle files of all sorts and do conversions between Google Docs files and PDF and Microsoft Office formats.
I’m at Google for one of its Campfire One developer events. There’s a campfire and a tent–even though we’re indoors–and a piece of significant news: The company is introducing Google Apps Marketplace, which is both a portal for business apps and a set of tools that let third-party developers integrate their wares with the Google Apps services.
Back in August, Google launched an advertising campaign aimed at business customers called Going Google. It involved billboards in four major U.S. cities and defined “Going Google” thusly:
Tonight, it’s expanding the campaign by bringing the ads to airports, train stations, and other locations in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US. But here’s how a new video defines Going Google:
The expanded definition doesn’t seem to have affected how many companies Google defines as having Gone Google–it said 1.75 million had done so in early August, with 3,000 more doing so every day, and now claims 2 million such customers–about what it should have after another couple of months of growth. But the notion of doing some enterprise business with Google is less intimidating than “switching to Google Apps.” In the new campaign, Google says that sixty percent of the Fortune 100 and sixty percent of the world’s top brands have Gone Google, a claim which is impressive but also suggests that Google decided to define Going Google loosely enough that it’s not a weird exception to the rule but something that the majority of major companies have done.
I wonder whether any of the companies Google now says have gone Google–Genentech, Motorla Mobile Devices, Northwestern University, New York Life, the Onion, Rentokil Initial, Telegraph Media Group, and others–are Search Appliance or Postini customers but not Google Apps users. It’s also worth noting that the first two organizations Google mentions as having Gone Google are ones with deep Google ties: Genentech’s former CEO was a member of Google’s board until last week, and Motorola’s Mobile Devices division is a major Google partner via devices such as the Cliq and Droid.
Earlier, Google claimed that 1.75 million companies had “switched to Google Apps.” Switching suggests a 100% transition from another product–ya think it might be Microsoft Office in this case?–but given that most of Google Apps only works when you have an Internet connection, and none of the apps have every feature every power user might want, I have a hard time believing that any company of real size doesn’t have copies of Office (or another traditional suite such as OpenOffice.org) floating around. Maybe lots of them.
My sense is that Google still thinks that dealing with the innate conservatism of big companies is one of the biggest challenges it faces with its business products and services. That’s why it’s making the point that it’s got a lot of business customers, including some big names. And it’s why it took the idiosyncratic-but-simultaneously-realistic step of releasing software that lets Microsoft Outlook serve as a client for Gmail and Google Calendar.
Mind you, I’m a Google Apps fan myself, although I haven’t exactly Gone Google: Depending on what I’m up to, I use Google Apps, Zoho, Sliderocket, Microsoft Office 2007, and Apple’s iWork–a sort of suite of suites. I’m just one guy, and Google Apps doesn’t have enough stuff to make me 100% happy 100% of the time, so it’s neither surprising nor embarrassing that the current version isn’t anywhere near ready to eradicate Office from typical large companies.
We’re nearing the end of the first phase of the Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office war–the period during which Google Apps is a service and Office is a piece of software. Next year, Microsoft will release the first true Web version of Office, and while I don’t expect it to be a massive game changer–Microsoft keeps insisting it’s a complement to the traditional Office apps, not a replacement for them–I can understand why Google would like as many companies as possible to Go Google before they have a new reason to Stay Microsoft.