Google Apps: Niche or Mainstream?

Google Apps
Google’s push into the productivity suite market has been sure and steady. With every acquisition (Writely, Tonic Systems, Zenter, 2Web, etc.) and organic development (e.g. GMail), Google has assembled all the parts it needs to go tete-a-tete with Microsoft in the multi-billion dollar productivity market. (The latest development is the impending launch of a PowerPoint-like service called Presently).

There has certainly been lots of excitement/hype about Google’s strategy. After all, people are fascinated with Google, and love the idea of seeing someone take a good run at Microsoft’s Office dominance. There’s no doubt Google has a growing user base who use some or, perhaps, all of its online productivity applications. The key question is whether Google Apps will become anything more than a special-situation or niche service.

For example, when the five members of mesh conference group (of which I’m a part) start putting together our programming, we use Google Docs as an easy way to collaborate. But other than that project, I’m not a big Google Docs user. Here’s another example: as PlanetEye starts to grow the number of cities within our travel guide, we need a way to document our progress. The solution: Google Spreadshets because it will make it a snap to share information with someone who works outside the office. But Google Docs is not a tool that will get heavy use with PlanetEye – at least not in the near future.

The other opportunity is the corporate market where Google has partnered with Cap Gemini. At $50 per user a year, Google Docs is certainly an affordable alternative to Microsoft but there has been few, if any sign, that large businesses are willing to change suppliers. If anything, a more promising market for Google is the SMB market where operating costs are more of an issue and companies have far more flexibility because they have fewer employees.

Of course, it would be foolish to dismiss Google’s chances given the power of its brand, the dominance of its search engine, large customer base, and its financial ability to compete. If people are looking for a productivity showdown, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.

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  • Matt

    Interesting. Do you think there will ever be a full shift away from productivity applications such as word or google docs, in favor of more specialized applications that are higher up the chain?

    For example, instead of collaborating on the mesh conference program in a google doc, why not collaborate in a wiki? The wiki could then be used to manage and publish both the print and online versions of the program.

  • Sankar Khrishnamurthy

    Mark, there is an alternative to Google Apps as well Zoho. Not sure how popular or how much of a user base does it have. But I found it to be quite useful for simple documents & spreadsheets. I am in no way affiliated to Zoho except as a user.