Posted by: Rob Hof on August 27, 2006
So Google’s moving forcefully at last into the business software market, at least in a test version. Google Apps for Your Domain, will let small businesses, nonprofits, and universities use, inside their own Internet domain, a free package of services that include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk text and voice messaging, and Google Page Creator.
Clearly, it’s potential competition for Microsoft’s Office suite, as many observers note. Later, Google plans to offer a paid version that likely would be more attractive to larger businesses.
It’s also clear this is a baby step for now. Dave Girouard, general manager of Google’s enterprise division, says Google isn’t aiming to compete with Office. And maybe he’s not being completely disingenuous: Fact is, once you start doing tasks online, with a constant connection to colleagues and other people taken for granted rather than grafted on by force, those tasks evolve into something rather different than any desktop app. So whatever it turns out to be, it’s not going to be an Office clone, since nobody needs that.
Still, competition it is—especially since Girouard also acknowledges that its word-processing service from recently acquired Writely, as well as its Google Spreadsheet service, are possible additions to the suite. He even goes so far as to call it a platform.
Which raises an interesting possibility: Would Google consider letting outside developers offer their services on this platform, so companies could finely customize their online office applications not just with Google’s own apps but from others as well? Google didn’t say so, and frankly I’m doubtful they’d cede that control. But that could be very attractive, especially given the explosion of interesting Web 2.0 services out there. And it sure would distinguish Google Apps from Office. It might not even be such a crazy idea, since Salesforce.com is already pushing the same idea with its AppExchange.
In any case, the battle between the two tech titans is now undeniably engaged—this time, on Microsoft’s home turf.
Update: a response from a rival with a sense of humor.