Google Apps versus Microsoft Office

There may not be enough Google Office converts right now to make it viable business

Office Killer. That's what some folks are calling Google's new Google Apps service, which wraps together Gmail, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and other services into a business-oriented package with features like the ability to use your own domain name.

As usual with virtually anything that anyone identifies as a "killer," the label is pure hype--there are many, many things that Microsoft Office does well that Google Apps doesn't do at all. I'm guessing that even Google doesn't think that the service will fell Microsoft Office anytime soon. But its mere existence is probably enough to agitate the Behemoth of Redmond. Call it an Office Annoyer.

Google Apps in its current form may have been announced this week, but there's not much that actually new. The various productivity tools it involves are all extant already, and are also available in free versions. Google has let people with domain names use Gmail as their e-mail solution for awhile, and a free version of Google Apps (under the what-a-mouthful name Google Apps For Your Domain) appeared back in August.

What's mostly new today is that Google thinks that Google Apps might be good enough for companies to pay for. The basic version will remain free, but Google Apps Premier Edition is a new variant that will cost US$50 per user per year.

Here's what US$50 gets you:

--Gmail with your domain name and 10GB of storage (versus 2GB for the free version)

--Google Talk

--Google Calendar with shareable schedules

--a Google Start Page that can include company info

--Google Docs and Spreadsheets (the neat hosted word processor and spreadsheet)

--Google Page Creator (a very basic Web site designer)

--a control panel to manage everything and some sort of hooks into your company's existing IT infrastructure

--mobile access to some functionality (such as Gmail)

--24/7 tech support (including phone help) and a 99.9% uptime guarantee for Gmail (but not for the other applications)

So who's using Google Apps? Google's testimonial page includes some praise from Procter and Gamble, GE, and Prudential, all of who are using or testing it. But it also includes laudatory comments from a couple of sources who aren't exactly unbiased--Google's own CTO (who says the company's using itself to get stuff done) and Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff (who, along with Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy, is one of the three folks I think of when I think of legendary Microsoft bashers).

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Harry McCracken

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