Google Inc. (GOOG.O) is making its most concerted move beyond search and advertising into the business software market, starting with a set of Web programs for e-mail, scheduling and communications, the company said on Sunday.
The online search leader said it has created a software platform to run basic business activities — based on programs it already offers separately. The move marks a stepped up challenge to rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) as the software giant prepares to upgrade its Windows and Office franchises.
The free set of Web-based programs for small businesses, universities and nonprofit businesses goes by the mouthful “Google Apps for Your Domain” (http://www.google.com/a/). Later this year, Google said it will offer a version to meet the demands of bigger corporations and government agencies.
Google will host the applications, and resulting customer data, in its datacenters worldwide, relieving companies of the need to maintain or install software on individual computers — support tasks often more costly than software itself.
Initial apps are Gmail Web e-mail, the Google Talk instant message and Web phone-calling service, group scheduling on Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator for Web page design.
“It really is intended to be a platform,” Girouard said. “One of the fundamental benefits of the software as service approach is that you can just turn on new features over time.” The Writely word processor and Google Spreadsheet are candidates for future inclusion in Google Apps, Girouard said.
Interestingly, Girouard is “general manager of Google’s enterprise division, which sells search software to companies.” This is just a bundle of existing offerings, but it sounds like the Office Live that everyone talked about, but Microsoft didn’t deliver, perhaps because they have the Microsoft Office cash cow to protect.
Update 8/28: Aaron Ricadela has more background at InformationWeek.
Google this week will launch Google Apps for Your Domain, a software bundle aimed at small and midsize companies. The free, ad-supported package combines Google’s E-mail, calendar, and instant messaging with Web site creation software. It will be hosted in Google’s data center, branded with customers’ domain names, and packaged with management tools for IT pros.
That’s the first step. Later this year, Google plans to add its Writely word processor and Google Spreadsheets to the suite, build online collaboration features that work across its applications, and market the whole package to large companies for a fee. Google will include IT-friendly features such as APIs, directory-server integration, guaranteed performance levels, and telephone tech support.
Instead of trying to displace the hundreds of millions of copies of Office installed on business PCs, Google will try to snare users once they start sharing the Word and Excel files they’ve created. “The right way to view Writely and Google Spreadsheets, especially in the context of a larger business, isn’t necessarily as a replacement for Word or Excel,” says Matt Glotzbach, head of enterprise products at Google. “They’re the collaboration component of that.”
The Google press release is here.