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Google Apps Team Edition Emulates Social Networking Model

The search engine's latest software bundle builds a rudimentary social graph where workers can collaborate and share documents.
Google on Thursday plans to offer a new social version of its online Google Apps application suite.

Google Apps Team Edition is more or less identical to the standard version of Google Apps in function; it differs in that it's designed to spread virally and to encourage collaboration.

Upon logging in to Google Apps Team Edition, a user can identify other Google Apps users in his or her organization and can easily invite colleagues to share documents and calendars. Google Apps, in other words, has gained the makings of a rudimentary social graph, as social network friend lists are called.

Google Apps consists of Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Start Page and Google Page Creator. It also includes an administrative Control Panel, and as of earlier this week, new security and compliance options.

"What this is aiming to do is to provide workgroups within organizations with a way to quickly adopt Google Apps and to quickly start collaborating in the cloud," said Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps. "All of these applications are social applications. Every time you create an event with a group of people, you're creating a connection with that group. This allows that networking of people within a corporation to bind everyone together."

By encouraging users to invite colleagues and to share documents, Google is simultaneously lightening the burden on administrators and taking them out of the application adoption equation. Such user-driven IT hasn't been universally embraced, but organizations like Gartner nevertheless see it as inevitable.

IT groups will become more user-driven, with more than half of all IT buying decisions being made to accommodate end-users by 2010, Gartner predicted in a recent report. "The rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of the browser interface have made computing approachable and individuals are now making decisions about technology for personal and business use," Gartner said.

Google appears to be counting on user evangelism both to wean workers away from applications like Microsoft Office that appear by fiat on corporate desktops and to overcome resistance from change-averse IT administrators.

"For IT organizations that have not actually signed up [for Google Apps] themselves, a lot of their users are already using our consumer applications," said Sheth. "[Google Apps Team Edition] kind of provides a protective wrapper around this. It gives an IT organization an easy way to bring this in and start administering it."