John Paczkowski

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LIVE: Google Apps Event

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At an event in San Francisco, Google is expected to discuss the future of its productivity suite and some enhancements that may begin to close the gap with Microsoft (MSFT) Office, something the company desperately needs to do if it wants to make deeper inroads in the enterprise area.

As Girouard himself admitted last week, Apps still has a ways to go. “Gmail is really the best email application in the world for consumers or business users, and we can prove that very well,” he said. “Calendar is also very good, and probably almost at the level of Gmail. But the word processing, spreadsheets and other products are much less mature. They’re a couple of years old at the most, and we still have a lot of work to do.”

In a few hours we’ll learn just how much work has been done and how much is left. Join us for live coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT).

  • The title of this morning’s presentation is “Google Apps: The Enterprise Cloud.” Presiding over it, Andrew Kovaks from Google’s cloud computing team and Dave Girouard, president of Google’s Enterprise division. According to the schedule provided, it will feature a CIO roundtable discussion as well as some new product demos.
  • Girouard kicks things off with a quick overview of the business. Google is a 10-and-a-half-year-old company, he says, adding that Google Apps is about half as old as that. “We’re about five, five-and-a-half years into this initiative.”
  • Girouard says the current recession has made cloud computing more urgent, more necessary. “This has been a really difficult environment. Everyone is feeling it and we need to respond…It’s important to invest in difficult times, especially during times when everything is telling you to cut back.” Great companies thrive during downturns, he notes, adding that Google is investing in Apps, because the company views it as an area the company can grow into for quite some time to come.
  • Looking backwords for a moment, Girouard notes that this particular side of Google’s business was born out the company’s search app and then Gmail. Gmail, he adds, was initially conceived as an internal app before it was rolled out to the consumer market.
  • A few interesting data points:

    –70 percent of the universities in the U.S. are in the process of outsourcing or moving their email to a cloud computing solution.

    –Google now has 1.75 million businesses on Google Apps.

    –It has more than 15 million active ursers.

    –Dozens of Apps customers with more than 1,000 employees.

  • Increasingly, larger companies are moving to Google Apps. Among them, Genentech (DNA), the first large business to “go Google.” A Genentech rep is on hand to talk up the company’s experience which, obviously, was a positive one.

    Also, a recent advocate of Google Apps, Avago–the first company with over $1.5 billion in revenue to use Google Apps as a suite. “We save over $1.6 million a year using Google Apps,” says the Avago rep.

    Another recent Google App convert, Morgans Hotel Group, the proprietor of the Clift Hotel, at which this event is being held. The Clift rep says the platform has had a tremendous impact on the company already and it’s only just made the switch.

  • So, why are companies adopting Google Apps? A few reasons: Radically lower costs, obviously. But also a steady stream of innovation. We haven’t exactly seen that from Google yet as I noted in the introduction, but presumably there will be some evidence of it on display later this morning.

    To be fair, Google did make a few additions to Apps last year–APIs and whatnot. Girouard offers Gmail offline and Secure Data Connector as examples of this. The company has made other smaller enhancements as well, such as extensibility features and enterprise Interoperability features.

  • Interesting. Girouard says Google Apps often provides a 3X cost savings over other non-cloud solutions. He also says Google believes it has a more reliable product than most. The company is holding itself to that claim by being more transparent about downtime and service incidents. He notes the Apps Status Dashboard, which tracks up and downtime, as a move in this direction.
  • “Failure is not an option,” says Girouard. His mandate to his team: There can be no failed deployments. Enterprise deployment and support must be streamlined and easy.
  • All this is wonderful, but what’s the company got that is new today? Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook for one thing. The App allows users to sync Outlook with Apps just like Outlook natively syncs with Exchange. Offers fast email sync with Google-native protocol, full calendar and contact sync, as well as global address autocomplete and search and free/busy information support.

    Google has essentially recreated the Outlook GUI within Apps. Seemless integration. Works offline. Same familiar Outlook experience. Use Gmail and outlook simultaneously. Everything is supported natively and, as the demoer notes, “your data is safe, it’s with Google.” Well, that’s one way to look at it.

    Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is available today as part of the company’s Premiere Apps. It’s available for Windows only and it is an enterprise-only service. It is, however, available for free to non-profits and educational institutions.

  • A few quick case studies: Avago rep says this represents the “last hurdle” for users to get over migrating away form Exchange. The feedback we’ve gotten is that this looks “exactly the same” as Exchange. Genentech rep relates a similar experience. “It looks like a native Outlook experience. The average has no idea we switched out the back-end…We anticipate widepsread adoption.”
  • Girouard: “I bet you never imagined you’d see Google demonstrating Outlook for you all, so this is a first.”
  • Moving on now to the Q&A:
  • Question: How much revenue flows through this?

    Girouard: Hundreds of millions of dollars…that’s as explicit as we’ll get.

  • Q: How is the company dealing with Microsoft and its entrenchment in this particular sector?

    Long meandering answer that ends with this: The company has a new App Reseller program that it debuted in April. It will give it more feet on the street and expand the ecosystem. That’s a start, I suppose.

  • Q: Is Outlook the only app that makes sense for this sort of sync, or is the company considering doing something similar with Excel and PowerPoint as well?

    Google’s clearly already put a lot of thought into this and expects to pursue it. That said, says Girouard: “We don’t view the world as you’ve got to get rid of Office and use Google Apps instead. We see it as more nuanced than that.”

  • Q: Did the IT folks in the room have any concerns about Google’s commitment to these services?

    Apparently not. The Morgans Hotel rep says has has “no reservations about the future viability of the product.” Gmail’s been around for a while now, hasn’t it? Also, notes Avago guy: “Don’t be evil is one of Google’s core values…We’re taking them at their word.”

  • Interesting comment from Genentech rep amid remarks out mobile needs: “I can’t get Android phones fast enough for our folks.”

  • Q: What areas are showstoppers for CIOs considering a migration to Google Apps? What services and apps do they absolutely need to retain control over?

    The Morgans Hotel rep says none. “We’re looking to move everything to the cloud.” The Avago and Genentech reps say pretty much the same thing. The Genentech rep: “Anything in the cloud is fine by us.”

  • Q: What areas can developers play in without being crushed by Google?

    Giouard says there are many. “We’re going to have a very large installed base of Google Apps users and there’s a great opportunity here for developers to sell into that…We are really opening up the stack to the developer world and that’s going to be great for our business customers.”

  • Q for Genentech rep: At what point will you shut down Outlook?

    “I don’t see us shutting it down any time in the near future, but we hope that the number of Outlook users shrinks as our employees see the benefits of the Web and Google Apps.”

  • Asked for his feelings on companies that use the term “cloud computing” to peddle non-cloud computing services, Giouard replies: IT giants have co-opted the cloud computing term.

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