Google is filling in one of the more gaping holes in its Google Apps Web-based productivity suite: It’s announcing that it’s adding Google Groups, a business-focused variant of the consumer service that’s been around since 2001.
Like the existing version, the Google Apps variant of Groups is built around searchable, unlimited-storage discussion forums. Businessfolk can create new discussions without the intervention of IT staffers’ engage in threaded conversations; share items such as word-processing files, spreadsheets, and video; and get updates via e-mail. But IT departments get the ability to manage discussions and establish policies for groups within the organization.
All this sounds like it’ll help Google Apps compete more directly with SharePoint, the Microsoft collaborative system that doesn’t have the name recognition of Word or Excel, but which is nearly as deeply entrenched in a lot of businesses. Maybe that’s why Google isn’t including this version of Groups in its freebie Standard edition at all: It’s only in the Premier edition ($50 a year) and the Education one (free, but only for schools). Users of Google Apps Standard edition can continue to create private groups in the consumer version of Groups.