Google Apps Premier…Premiers

Google Apps Premier, Google’s very own Office-Suite-in-a-box, just debuted. Information Week has a nice summary. It’s a nice collection of hosted web applications, including the mighty Gmail, for businesses. It’s darn cheap too – at $50 per user per year.
From the perspective purchasing, maintaining and supporting IT infrastructure, the ROI is pretty clear: pay us $50 and we’ll worry about everything else. It’s not only a direct attack at Microsoft’s dominance of business productivity software, it’s a direct on how we think about and use software generally. If anything, it brings into question the operating system itself. Put differently, do we really need an operating system anymore? Google has a damn big one. Do we really need storage anymore? Google has plenty of that as well.
While it’s all got a pretty revolutionary feel, one thing the press seems glean over is the wide array of highly specialized uses the Microsoft Office platform enables. We have a client here in New York that uses Excel in a very sophisticated way – tying tables to complex modeling functions and back-end databases. Word is no different. It’s a staggeringly deep application that is used for everything from drafting legal forms to handling sophisticated, cross-referenced technical documents. Google isn’t after such specialized use – at least not yet. They’re after what I like to call the “obvious 15.” It’s the most visibile, most accessible 15% of functionality that lies within these apps. That 15% is all the great majority of users need. Simple formatting, spell check in Word. Basic ledger capabilities in Excel. It’s a very large market. Word and Excel look like shallow puddles on the surface, but they are very deep.
In all this, I think it’s an oversimplification to just broadly categorize this as some battle of office suites. The arena is clearly marked: casual and small business use that leverages the common office suite functions. A small accouting firm. A dentist’s office. A startup with a few employees. It’s very appealing to just sign up and go.
This leaves me with one more future-ism: envisioning a day when that depth, richness and functionality truly marries with a Google-like distributed model. Scary…but exciting.

2 Comments Google Apps Premier…Premiers

  1. Tom D.

    Great observation, Rich. It’s true that 80% (at least) of te people who use Word and Excel use the same, basic 20% (if that) of the functionality, but it’s the other 80% of the functionality and the other 20% of the users that drive the upgrade cycles. Excel, for example, is far beyond a simple spreadsheet, it’s a whole industry. The financial industry, in particular, lives in Excel.
    Now does that mean that Google can’t build their spreadsheet app to be everything that Excel is? No, but it will take time.
    The really interesting thing that Google is doing here is blurring the lines between office applications and the interconnected, distributed, shared model that all of the Google stuff seems to follow. Already, when I receive a Word document in Gmail, it’s easy to open it in the Google wordprocessor app. If I get a simple spreadsheet…the same thing is true. And just by doing that, Google has scored a win that no one else has been able to do since Office became dominant: they’ve got users opening and working with Office documents without using MS Office. That step is huge.

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  2. Jim Priest

    I like the idea – but am not sure about relying on Google to store and serve my documents…
    I use Gmail and several times it’s been down for a considerable amount of time. Sean Corfield recently had issues: http://corfield.org/blog/index.cfm/do/blog.entry/entry/Gmail_Account_Disabled
    So what happens when I’m in a meeting – go to pull up my documents and calendar and get nothing? Or worse – Google deletes them?
    It will be interesting to see how Google fares. All it will take is one well publicized glitch…

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