For 15 years Google has wowed us, from its search engine to Android to Earth and Maps to a project to extend human life. A few keystrokes bring an explosion of information. For most people, it's empowering. For technologists, however, it's also humbling, because let's face it -- we never thought on such a grand scale.
It's against that backdrop of expansive vision that most IT pros look at Gmail and Google Docs, not to mention Hangouts and Chrome, and think: "Meh."
We expected to be wowed. What we got: Basic productivity tools that look like a stripped-down version of Microsoft Office and that same damn blinking cursor challenging us to write something intelligent.
Now, Google's contributions to the productivity app game -- cloudification, real-time collaboration capabilities, low costs and a simple procurement and administration model -- are nothing to scoff at. And the company's moving in the right direction. Given that the alternatives (Office and Outlook) feel more and more bloated, it's good to have a choice.
In fact, Google is doing to Microsoft as Microsoft has done to countless competitors: releasing products that are pretty good, improving incrementally and making them so affordable that, at some point, it's hard to justify not making the switch. That's especially true when most of your company's employees have Gmail and Google Apps accounts and aren't shy about using them for business.
So is Google ready to become a force in enterprise IT? Earlier this month the company announced that Whirlpool will move its 68,000 employees to Google Apps for Business. To find out if others will follow suit, we surveyed 368 business tech pros, then analyzed responses from the 289 from companies with more than 50 employees versus the 80 from small companies. (Data from all 368 respondents is available in our full report.)
As you can imagine, smaller companies adopt Google's business apps far differently from large companies. For smaller businesses, 63% support or plan to support Gmail; 61% similarly support Android devices, and 51% are OK with Chrome as a standard browser. At larger companies, in contrast, only 29% support or plan to support Gmail, 57% are on board with Android, and 39% support or will support Chrome. Just 20% of companies with 50 or more employees have deployed Google Apps and Gmail; an additional 6% encourage use, while 28% discourage or ban use outright. Meanwhile, in small companies, 39% -- nearly twice as many -- have apps and Gmail deployed, and an additional 11% encourage use versus 11% who discourage or ban Google Apps.
We asked respondents to speculate about what percentage of their business apps will come from Google in two years. Two-thirds of small-business users say that 25% or less of their apps will come from Google compared with a whopping 87% of large businesses saying the same.
A big part of this disparity is because Google doesn't offer back-office and other applications crucial to larger businesses. Nonetheless, our survey finds no rush to dump incumbent productivity and email suites.
Your interpretation of these numbers will largely depend on whether you're a "glass half full" or "glass half empty" type. On the half-full side, for business-critical software that's been around for just six years, Google Apps for Business is seeing pretty tremendous uptake. That overall, almost one-quarter of the U.S. companies we surveyed foresee increasing use of apps with such entrenched competition would elate most software companies.
On the half-empty side, Google isn't most software companies. It's either a disruptive force or it exits the business. If there's not a clear path to success -- which, for Google, equates to licensing revenue, which accounts for less than 5% of its business, or traffic acquisition for advertising, which accounted for 95% of its business in 2012, excluding Motorola -- it's likely to pull the plug.
This "fail fast" mentality is not lost on our poll takers. For larger companies, 55% see Google's willingness to dump products as a major concern (38%) or a deal breaker (17%); in smaller companies, just 9% see it as a deal breaker and 40% say it's a major concern. Remember Google Buzz or Wave? So do IT managers considering a bet on Google Apps.