Posted by: Rob Hof on February 28, 2008
Ever since Google bought the wiki-based online application startup Jotspot in late 2006, people have been wondering if it had disappeared forever inside the bowels of the search giant. Tonight, Google’s launching Google Sites, using Jotspot’s technology to create a free group collaboration service that will be part of its online software suite Google Apps.
Google characterizes Sites, which had been hinted at in late 2007, as the biggest Apps launch since Apps Premier Edition a year ago, and it may be right. The new service lets people in an organization instantly create a wiki-style group workspace, where they can post text, videos, calendars, and various attachments for their group or department to view and edit. Scott Johnston, Google’s senior product manager on Sites, has more in a blog post and video.
Sites at least nominally competes against Microsoft’s Sharepoint and IBM’s Lotus Notes, among other of those companies’ products. But how much of an impact Sites will have on them, and how soon, remains to be seen. Those products have many more capabilities than Sites, and they have been built to integrate with a lot of existing corporate applications. “Those other vendors have a very rich and very deep collection of applications that Google can’t yet match,” says Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver.
Still, Sites looks to be so easy that it could catch on, viral-fashion, among the many people inside organizations who can’t use or don’t want to go through the hassle of getting on Sharepoint or Lotus Notes—or who don’t want to go through those products’ learning curves. In other words, it might sneak into corporate enterprises the way PCs—and Microsoft applications—did a few decades ago.
Google’s touting some marquee customers such as the Government of the District of Columbia, Zodiac Interactive, and the University of North Caroline at Greensboro. For awhile, though, I think most of the users will be at quite small companies, just as with the rest of Google Apps.
By the way, once IT folks get wind of people using Sites or other Google Apps for corporate use, they can essentially take over management of these services inside their companies. By then, Google’s hoping the Apps will be entrenched enough that IT folks will be compelled to allow people to use them—and maybe look at Google’s other application offerings.
Update: Oops, our blog software had posted this an hour early—sorry, Google! Even though it was up only maybe 10 minutes before I demoted it to draft mode again, this gave more knowledgeable people than I a chance to weigh in. Ross Mayfield of Socialtext and Allen Stern of Center Networks both note, correctly, that the comparison to Sharepoint and Lotus Notes is a stretch at this point(which is why I said they “nominally” compare), though Mike Arrington at TechCrunch notes that Matthew Glotzbach, product management director at Google Enterprise, calls it a “Sharepoint killer.” Not just yet, but when it comes to software, you should never underestimate free and easy.