Google (Quote) says its mission is to organize all the world's information and make it accessible and useful to everyone.
Now well on its way to accomplishing that goal on the consumer Web, the search giant will increasingly turn its attention to the business Web in 2007.
"We're building towards a big future [in the enterprise space], big licensing or subscription business, and moving into a lot of other potential businesses over time," said Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google's enterprise division.
Girouard explained that Google plans to access the enterprise market by riding in on the shoulders of people like you and me who already use their applications for fun.
"Our focus is, and really ought to be, with applications that have a place in the consumer world and port them over to the enterprise and take advantage of the big Google that everybody knows," he told internetnews.com.
In fact, Girouard doesn't even try very hard to deny that Google views Microsoft as its principal competition.
But, he said, Google isn't trying to knock Microsoft entirely off the desktop. It's just trying to offer end users more choice.
"It makes perfect sense for organizations to have both options and let users decide which to use. That would be a very refreshing change," he said.
Enterprise apps in the cloud
The overwhelming majority of Google's enterprise revenue so far is generated by its search appliance business, which is based on the traditional perpetual license, on-premise model, rather than the cutting-edge software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.
This is ironic to say the least since Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com (Quote), defends SaaS by saying it is the enterprise doppelganger of what companies like Amazon (Quote), eBay (Quote) and, yes, Google, are doing on the consumer side.
Yes, Docs & Spreadsheets was introduced in 2006, but even Google admits that it doesn't measure up to Microsoft Office. At least not yet. That is because, Girouard said, his company has not yet begun to fight.
"This year has been about getting our toe in the water. [Next year] will be about taking a lot more steps forward," said Girouard.
Girouard promised that Google will add more functionality to Docs & Spreadsheets, and also turn additional consumer toys into enterprise-ready applications. Among the candidates for promotion?
Girouard said that Google Talk, which currently allows users to make VoIP calls (define) among themselves, will be beefed up to integrate with traditional phone systems as well as VoIP offerings from other vendors.
Forrester analyst Charlene Li also predicted that Google will make those digitized voice files searchable, thus increasing the sources of information that enterprise users can search, store and capture.
"They're not stopping at data that's on screens and Web pages," she told internetnews.com.
Girouard also indicated that Google may use the fruits of its acquisitions of Web 2.0 companies such as wiki-builder Jotspot and social-networking site Orkut to build the framework for a collaboration platform.
Another issue that Google intends to tackle, said Girouard, is giving enterprise users access to their data when they're not connected to the Internet -- "even if it's a diminishing problem" thanks to the proliferation of wireless access.
Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said that Google is putting a lot of emphasis on geospatial services for enterprise. "They see a lot of power being available in that product line," he told internetnews.com.
Mashups with Google Maps is just one example of how Google consumer applications have the potential to drive significant enterprise dollars. Google has even signed service level agreements for enterprise contracts for Google Maps and Google Earth, he said.
Andrews also suggested that blogging tool Blogger could be sold to smaller companies as an entry-level content management application. Google Video and YouTube could also have powerful value propositions for Google in the enterprise space, he said.
But while Google has enormous presence in many areas, Andrews argued that it has yet to turn that hegemony into a sustainable advantage, especially when faced with a competitor the likes of Microsoft. "Microsoft has a product in everything that has just been described," he noted.