Google Apps Go Pro

Is this the beginning of the end for Microsoft's desktop dominance?
Google has taken its Web-based applications to the big leagues with Google Apps Premier Edition, a suite of hosted applications targeted at the same enterprise market traditionally dominated by Microsoft Office.

Google Apps Premier Edition, which will cost businesses $50 per user account per year, includes Google Calendar, as well as the company's Gmail e-mail application and its Google Talk instant messaging client. It also includes Google Docs and Spreadsheets, word processing and spreadsheet applications geared for collaboration between users. Google's mobile e-mail application is also now available on BlackBerry devices.

It includes 10 gigabytes of storage per user, phone support, and Google guarantees that e-mail will be available 99.9 percent of the time. Google is also offering application-level control for administrators who want to adapt services such as calendars or spreadsheets to business policies.

Google launched a free version of Google Apps for Your Domain in August and told in November that it planned to make a premium option available in the first quarter of 2007.

In December, Google partnered with and eNom to add domain registration services to the product.

The six-month ramp-up of Google's enterprise initiative will pay off soon enough, Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann told She said the $50 per-user per-year price tag to "effectively outsource the support for the typical user desktop" is too low for CIOs to ignore.

Weaknesses in the Premier Edition, she added, include the lack of a presentation application, such as Microsoft's PowerPoint, as well as the fact that users have to be online to access applications and documents.

Google Apps Premier Edition product manager Rajen Shepth told that Google recognizes this as an issue. "That is one of the focus areas -- to make that better and better," Shepth said.

For now, he recommends users take advantage of a feature enabling them to import documents created in off-line applications.

Wettemann expects Google to "fill in the holes" shortly. In other words, there's nowhere to run, Microsoft.

Of course, Microsoft isn't in any trouble yet. Already 300,000 small businesses use its hosted application product, Office Live, since it launched last November. And generally, Microsoft's feature set is more expansive. Microsoft was unavailable for comment.

Office Live includes client relationship management software that Google does not offer, for example. Microsoft Office Live's relationship with third-party developers is also further along than Google App's open APIs.

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