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2/23/2007
12:00 AM
Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar
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Google Gets Into UC

Google announced "Google Apps Premier Edition" this morning, a hosted suite delivering e-mail, calendaring, IM, spreadsheet, word processing, and mobile e-mail for Blackberry.  A key feature is that enterprises can brand the services with their own domains, so the Google branding is invisible to end users. 

While they are billing this as an "enterprise" suite, the reality is that the feature set is far more limited than Microsoft office (but of course the price is much lower).  I see this being useful for very small enterprises with limited feature requirements, but I don't see this as being a challenger to the Microsoft/Lotus domination of the corporate desktop.

In addition to Google’s announcements, Avaya announced that they were joining Google's "Enterprise Professional" program to develop products that integrate with Google's applications.  Some of the applications that they mentioned include integrated web conferencing and presence with the Gtalk client,  This would presumably enable Gtalk users to click to call, start conferences through the Gtalk interface, and get presence information from the Avaya phone system (e.g. to see if someone is on the phone).

It is notable that Avaya's focus here is on the small enterprise market, again underscoring that the feature sets and capabilities in the Google suite really aren’t ready for the larger enterprise market.

While the hype around these announcements is strong, the reality is that they jury is still out on the viability of hosted UC applications, as well as Google’s ability to compete in this space.  Gtalk is struggling, with a user population of around 865,000, compared with 53 million users of AOL IM, 27 million users of MSN, 22 million Yahoo users and 9 million Skype users (according to Nielsen/NetRatings).   Google itself choose to partner with Skype for click-to-call services in its advertising programs rather than its own IM/voice chat product.

So the bottom line in my mind is that given that even the smallest enterprise can buy a hosted Microsoft Exchange service from any number of service providers, will the lower cost of the Google suite offer enough incentive for enterprises to adopt the Google suite?  And can Google offer support services capable of meeting enterprise needs (including such features as 24x7 support) At this point, the jury is still very much out.

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