New Google Apps tools target enterprise collaboration

Google has released three new tools as part of its Google Apps suite, designed to increase collaboration in the enterprise.

Continuing its push to productivity and Cloud computing, Google has announced Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a plug-in that lets users work together on the same file at the same time in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on Windows PCs. It has also launched Appsperience, a 90-day trial of Google Apps for businesses and a Collaboration Dashboard, which will enable greater visibility on how Google Apps documents are used within an enterprise via aggregated activity metrics.

“The momentum around Cloud computing is accelerating,” said Google Apps product manager, Anil Sabharwal. “Google Apps for business pivots on people. It is inherently a collaboration platform. And the products across the [Google Apps] platform are inherently social.”

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which is available for download as a plug-in, is available for Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on Windows PCs. It allows multiple users to work on a document in Word, Excel and Powerpoint at the same time without the need for collating and tracking changes.

It is not available for Office for Mac, which doesn’t have open APIs support.

CIOs discuss why they decided to go Google and the implications for their operations.

Google envisages Cloud Connect will provide a ‘bridge’ to help users make the leap to Cloud-based applications.

“Even though this ‘sea change’ is happening, it’s going to take time to transition,” Sabharwal said. “We are working on ways to ease the transition from the desktop to the cloud.”

Many organisations are already using Sharepoint for business collaboration, but Sabharwal said many orgnanisations must move to Sharepoint 2010 to make the most of the functionality.

“It requires a full rearchitecture onto 64-bit, which most organisations don’t have, [and] Office 2010, which again, most organisations don’t yet have,” he said.

“What we’re saying to organisatiosn that are still on [Office] 2007 or 2003 — that’s 99 per cent of the organisations we speak to — is ‘here is an opportunity for your to move towards a more inherently social environment but we recognise there is a bridge’. And we want to provide a way for Office users, and particularly ‘power Office users’ to gradually move into the platform.”

Google has been continuously adding functionality to Google Apps, including language translation tools, and 2-step verification for login, whereby users download an app to their smartphones which generates a token for extra security.

Although the Appsperience trial is free, businesses pay a fee to work with a Google reseller partner to integrate the suite. Businesses of less than 500 uses pay about $7000, more than 500 users costs about $15,000. The price points are recommended fees based on typical deployment needs for the two size tiers. Partners have the flexibility to adjust pricing on a case-by-case basis depending on the complexity situation and regional labor costs.

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