Google Apps upgrade plans out today

The new features in the Google Apps suite are targeted at large organisations.


Expectations are running high for an event Google will hold today to announce enhancements to the business-oriented Premier edition of its Apps collaboration and communication suite.

The event, to be held in San Francisco, will feature a CIO roundtable and new product demos, which Google is tight-lipped about but which are designed to boost Apps' appeal among large organizations, according to several people familiar with the plans.

Google Apps, originally aimed at small companies, has many opportunities for improvement in the enterprise area, according to Guy Creese, vice president and research director at industry analysis firm Burton Group.

"I truly hope Google gets its enterprise act together; the competition would be good for the market. However, given that it took them 2-plus years to add [Microsoft Office 2007] OOXML support to Docs, I’m not holding my breath," Creese said via e-mail.

Google must close the feature-set gap between Microsoft Office and the Docs office productivity software that is part of Apps, Creese said. In addition, Apps needs more IT administration and control features, such as role-based management, where IT defines a set of roles, and then adds end-users to those roles accordingly, he said. The Google suite would also benefit from a records management component, which IT managers would welcome.

Teju Deshpande, vice president of client services at Mindcrest, a provider of offshore legal services, would like to have a database application as part of Apps, as well as better IT administration capabilities.

She would also like to see Google or its partners develop small applications for, say, tracking travel and expenses, as well as better integration between Apps and the Postini communications security and compliance platform Google acquired in 2007.

"If I can avoid leaving my Google Apps domain entirely to get 90 percent of what I need to get done, that would be helpful," Deshpande said. Mindcrest has almost 700 users of Apps Premier, which costs US$50 annually per user.

Above all, she would like clarity from Google about the future of Apps so that she can plan accordingly. "It'd be great to get a road map for the next three years," she said.

Others have pointed out that Apps lacks enterprise social-networking features that have become popular in competing collaboration and communication products, such as giving employees Facebook-like profiles and the ability to do Twitter-like microblogging. In fact, there have been rumours about Google being interested in acquiring Twitter.

There are also a number of Google consumer services that might be a good fit for enterprises, such as the blog publishing system Blogger, the Groups discussion forums service and Voice, an application for managing voice communications.

Making more of these consumer services available to Apps accounts would be a welcome move for Kari Barlow, assistant vice president at Arizona State University's Technology Office, which has about 60,000 unique weekly users of the Apps education edition.

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