Google Apps in the Enterprise? Not!

by Dave Michels

I’m a big fan of Google Apps. I regularly collaborate with others on various projects, and find Google Docs a powerful tool. Most of my documents include multiple editors. I despise making multiple copies and sending them via email – one copy is so much smarter.

Then came Google Voice and Google Chat. Google chat evolved to support video. Google looked like it was going to take on Skype, Microsoft, and now Facebook with Google +. I wrote many posts about Google Voice as a UC solution basically saying it wasn’t ready yet, but could indeed evolve into a significant value proposition. 

Google Voice has simultaneous ring, recording, mobile clients, outbound callerid substitution, low rates, voice mail transcription, desktop client and when combined with other Google services it has IM, presence, docs, messaging, video, and more. I suggested that a simple PBX with basic SIP trunks combined with Google Voice could provide a rich and cost effective UC solution.

I never actually recommended Google Voice for business. I was planning to – when Google would offer a paid version, with support, and continue to develop the service. But that day never came.

Instead, I wrote Google’s Muted Voice (Jan 2011) and then Neglected Google Voice (Aug 2011).  It seemed Google had no interest in enterprise communications. Even Google Apps was relegated to being only an SMB play.

Now that David Girouard, who led Google’s push into enterprise applications, is leaving the company, I suspect we have seen the high point of Google’s enterprise push.  Ironically, it seems Microsoft has also killed Skype’s push into the enterprise. Consumer markets seem just fine to these vendors.

GigaOm did a post on David’s departure which hit on a few key points regarding Google’s enterprise push:

Its aggressive subscription pricing on Google Apps and Gmail — not to mention the free versions – forced Microsoft to offer cheaper hosted versions of Office, SharePoint, and Exchange email…For all Google’s effort, the incumbent powers Microsoft Office and Exchange Server still lead the corporate applications and email market.  Last fall, market researcher Gartner estimated that Google Apps for Business represented less than 1 percent of Google’s overall revenue and there is some doubt as to whether the enterprise apps business remains a priority for the company. Still, market share and revenue may never have been Google’s goal. By offering a lower-cost option to the Office/Exchange tandem, Google forced the market leader to respond, and that may have been the point all along.

If Google wanted to win the enterprise business, then it failed. But if Google wanted to push Microsoft – just has Microsoft has pushed Google with Bing – then it succeeded. From what I have seen, Office 365 is a far superior offer than Google Apps for Business for a small business. I haven’t made the change personally because 1) I’m using the free version of Apps with no immediate incentive and 2) It’s just me, and I’m content with what I have. However, with my SMB clients, Google Apps is rarely acceptable. I should point out that I have and use Microsoft Office as well. Google Apps is not, in my opinion, ready to replace Office in most situations.

The Great Tech War of 2012, published in Fast Company, is an excellent piece on technology moats – how Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon compete. Highly recommended.