In a move that could trigger a new battle for software supremacy, Google launched Google Apps Premiere Edition yesterday, a suite of hosted software which is expected to provide tough competition to Microsoft (News
) Office, at least after some years.
Google Apps Premiere Edition is a set of communication and collaboration tools targeted at businesses looking to save money on communications without compromising on functionality. For an annual fee of $50 (£26) a year per user, corporate customers can get full access to Google (News
) Apps Premier Edition, which includes e-mail, a word processor and a spreadsheet. That’s not all. The deal also includes support for Gmail on BlackBerry mobile devices, 10GB of e-mail storage per user, round-the-clock phone support and service-level agreements promising 99.9% uptime.
At the moment, Google is willing to play soft on the advertising front - customers can turn off the ads if they don’t want to see them in the Premier version. While Google admits
that the functionality of Google Apps is not as advanced as that of Microsoft Office, the suite will still attract users because of its cost effectiveness and ease of use. At the same time, Microsoft is trying to play down the issue and it feels
that online services such as Google’s are not alone in altering today’s technology industry. Also, Microsoft believes it has too strong of a customer base to be intimidated by a product like Google Apps.
Google has been aiming at Microsoft’s Office market for some time now. Eager to supplement its lucrative search business, it has built massive data-storage plants on which it will save the docs and spreadsheets for Google Apps users. These data-storage plants are said to be years ahead of those developed so far by Microsoft and IBM (News
Google Apps Premier Edition also includes a personalized start page combining private, corporate and public information into one interface. Using Google Docs & Spreadsheets, users can collaborate online when building and changing documents. This means when someone can make changes to a document while it is being viewed in real time by other users. Each version of the document is saved in the data-storage plants of Google. According to Google, this process is more secure than with Microsoft Office, where the file has to be sent back forth many times and it can be easily forwarded out of the company.
Google Apps Premier Edition already has many appreciative clients, including Salesforce.com (News
), Prudential Preferred Properties and SF Bay Pediatrics.
For some time now, Google has been upgrading its product suit to meet the consumer demand. Some issues with Google Apps still remain to be sorted out. To start with, the e-mail system is not compliant with federal privacy rules. So, the employees of a corporation who are using this e-mail service have to careful not to include any sensitive information about the company in the messages they send. Google Apps also lacks the collaboration functionality of Microsoft Sharepoint. Google plans to tackle this as soon as it acquires JotSpot, which makes a wiki that lets people build spreadsheets, calendars, documents and photo galleries.
As Google enters the hitherto unchallenged world of Microsoft Office, questions are being raised about Office’s future. But it’s too early to even think about MS Office’s domination eroding. Google needs to work out lot of issues with Apps before it can pose any real threat to the already established Microsoft Office suit.
Raju Shanbhag is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.