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GM And Google Apps: Buckled In?

Carmaker has no comment on reported Google Apps contract, but watchers say leak hints at negotiating tactic by GM. Will GM CIO's wishlist from 2009 come true?
Kline predicted that Google Apps would become "a legitimate threat" to competing enterprise apps by the second half of 2010, at "a price point that is impressive."

Given the no-holds-barred competition for enterprise customers between Google and Microsoft, Kline's vision of the future appears to have become the present. At the recent Web 2.0 Summit, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterized his company's success with Office 365 thus: "We are winning winning winning winning." To prove that point, Microsoft proudly points to companies like retail marketing firm Aisle7, which tried Google Apps and then jumped ship for Microsoft BPOS, the precursor to Office 365.

A spokesperson for Aisle7 didn't respond to a request for comment.

But Google paints a picture of winning too, as can be seen from the its map of Google Apps deployments.

Jason Lee, a partner at Chicago, Ill.-based IT integrator Maven Wave Partners, says that his company's clients are increasingly interested in shifting non-differentiated IT operations to the cloud. In the last 18 to 24 months, he said in a phone interview, the conversation has changed from a desire to experiment to actual deployments. He attributes some of the increased willingness to consider Google Apps to the fact that many businesspeople are using cloud services in their personal lives.

Lee says that while he's not privy to negotiations between Google and GM, he believes the deal will be seen as a huge validation of the cloud if it goes through.

Shea Bennett, CEO of Migration King, a Maryland-based IT consulting organization, says he's 99.9% certain GM will deploy Google Apps. No one at GM would allow a leak like that unless it was to exert pressure on Google to agree to more favorable contractual terms, he suggested.

"Trust and believe they've already made a decision to go Google," he said in a phone interview, characterizing the news as the result of typical IT negotiation tactics. "It's just a matter of taking care of contractual requirements."

Bennett's firm handles IT consulting work for companies interested in Microsoft products and for companies interested in Google products. Bennett, however, makes it clear that Google Apps generates more revenue for his organization than Office 365. "100% of time when the call is about Google products, it always leads to revenue," he said, drawing a contrast with less committed inquiries about Microsoft's offerings.

Google Apps, Bennett suggests, is on a roll. "The momentum of Google Apps has done nothing but accelerate, especially in schools," he said. "Most schools are not even taking a look at Office 365 because it still takes some on-premises software."

Lee notes that the recent introduction of Google+ and Google+ Pages for businesses is also making Google Apps more attractive to organizations.

"It's going to enhance the value proposition of Google Apps because Google+ will be tightly integrated with the collaboration platform," he said.

Google is expected to provide an update on its enterprise business on Monday, November 14, at an event called Atmosphere, which is being held at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.