Like many divisions at Google, the search giant's enterprise unit grew out of a small project-focused team, working on what would become the Search Appliance software for organizing information on corporate intranets.
Today, while the enterprise division still accounts for no more than a low-single-digit fraction of Google's revenue, it is seen by top management as crucial to the future of the company, as corporations increasingly shift from traditional packaged software to "cloud" computing models.
Google Enterprise now has around 600 total employees, including a sales force of "a couple of hundred," Matthew Glotzbach, product management director at the enterprise division, said in an interview following his keynote address today at Interop in New York City. As opposed to Google's traditional "build cool stuff and people will find it" approach to consumer applications, the company has built a more conventional sales force to hawk its enterprise-targeted products, including Google Apps.
"We're absolutely out there selling," Glotzbach said, "working the large Fortune 500 companies and everything. It's a traditional sales cycle."
Google maintains a three-tier structure for its enterprise sales force, with a direct sales team peddling to large companies, a more "inside" group selling to midmarket businesses, and small-company sales driven by online marketing. That setup mirrors the ways in which Google sells ads to enterprises, Glotzbach added.
Still, the nature of Google's Web-based applications for business dictates that the products be easily "discoverable" and very user-friendly. "We don’t get the opportunity to train our users," said Glotzbach. "They train us."
First released in February, Google Apps is a full Web-based suite of "productivity applications" akin to Microsoft Office, including documents, spreadsheets, a calendar function, and hosted e-mail. Today at Interop, Glotzbach announced that IMAP support has been added to Gmail, making it easier to read and send e-mail on mobile devices and desktop computers, all synched together.
The IMAP addition displays Google's ability to continually introduce new features and capabilities -- an ability not found in conventional packaged software like Microsoft Office, Glotzbach pointed out.
"There are a lot of capabilities in a hosted model that you just don’t have in a packaged model," Glotzbach said.
Last week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Google's Web apps lack the power and robustness of Office software.
"If a few people want to collaborate on a project, there are some nice benefits to doing it across the Web," Ballmer said. "If you really want to do what our users do in Word and Excel, you need to have Word and Excel."
Google's enterprise efforts received a boost in September when French consulting and outsourcing company Capgemini said it would offer professional services to large companies interested in adopting the Google Apps Premier Edition.
"Capgemini's move helps validate Google’s push into offering business applications via a software-as-a-service model to large corporations," wrote Gartner analyst Ben Pring of the partnership. "Google is beginning to develop a professional services 'ecosystem,' critical to software companies, which will enable it to appeal to larger customers with more complex requirements."
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