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7/15/2011
03:27 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Google Elevates Summer Heatwave

Google's success with consumers should cause businesses to take note. Android, Chromebook, and Google+ all have potential to disrupt enterprise IT, and possibly in very good ways.

Google, never far from the news, is heating up beyond the record temperatures this summer. As if Android, its mobile operating system, wasn't growing fast enough, or Google Apps wasn't pushing Microsoft out of its comfort zone enough, or Google search wasn't dominant enough, the company is making its play for the mobile wallet (Google Wallet) and social networking (Google+). On Thursday, Google reported record revenue of $9.03 billion for the second quarter, up 32% from the year-earlier quarter.

While Google looms large in the consumer world (CEO Larry Page wants Google's products to be used as often as a toothbrush, he said, perhaps leaving some areas of the Appalachians and various northern parts of the U.K. to the likes of Facebook), the company is only now starting to bang on the door of the business world with legitimate purpose.

For instance, while Apple iOS has taken the consumer market by storm and the BlackBerry is still the preeminent mobile platform for business, Android--at 550,000 activations each day--has flourished somewhere in the middle. Your enterprise will soon have many Android devices trying to extract email and access and download corporate data.

That means IT organizations will have to support Android phones and tablets. It means they will have to develop apps (for customers and employees) for the Android platform. And it means IT shops will have to worry about even more information security problems, given the alarming volume of malware aimed at Android marketplace apps. One report has Android malware attacks jumping 400% from last year.

Google's Chromebook, now shipping, is another intriguing twist on thin computing, pushing the idea that end users don't need heavy-duty local computing when corporate-class applications are largely server-based, web-based, and cloud-based. Like every company that has forwarded this thin client concept over the past 15 years, Google is still a bit early, as BYTE contributor Larry Press illuminates here.

Google probably knows that. But whether your next end-user computing model involves a tablet, a netbook, or something like a Chromebook, surely Google has us all thinking once again about whether the days of laptop and desktop computers are numbered.

And finally, Google+. The beta service still isn't available for business customers using Google Apps, but it's coming. Ford is experimenting with it for customer outreach, perhaps attempting to get in early and replicate what Audi has done on Twitter.

It might seem a far-fetched idea that social networking--an idea that still makes the hair stand up on the backs of CIOs, even the women--let alone social networking from Google, would be cause for enterprise planning, but it is precisely the way that Google is thinking about social that should intrigue IT pros. The ability to create Circles (groups of people in your social network) that include co-workers, separate from friends and family, or business partners, separate from someone you met at a bar, starts to get at something that could drive a more productive form of a collaboration and information exchange. Add concepts like Hangout, where you can hold instant video chats, and that collaboration gets even more rich.

Getting 10 million users on Google+ in two weeks is quite an accomplishment. As Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard points out in his research note on Google today, Page's comments about fiscal discipline and product focus underlie the company's commitment not just to elevating buzz, but also building a successful business. Google's winning on both scores.

Let's just hope some of those people on Google+ are taking a little time out during the day to also brush their teeth and get a little work done.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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