Google has two hurdles in getting into the office applications space for large enterprises. One is security, which it addressed yesterday by purchasing Postini for $625 million (how about a beer in the parking lot to celebrate?). The second is patience, as Google waits for businesses to catch up with the reality that the web is becoming the true platform for 21st century business.
Since Google Apps operates on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, it needs workers to be connected to the internet at all times. As this Wired posting from a few months ago points out, that fact, coupled with the absence of a PowerPoint equivalent, still puts Google Apps at a disadvantage. For instance, I could take my laptop onto a plane or write an e-mail in an offline mode for Outlook, but I couldn't open my Gmail.
The plane is an extreme example. But it hits on an interesting idea: though we talk about always "being connected"-whether it's through our cell phones or PDAs, or from WiFi at the library, coffee shop or airport — it doesn't always truly feel that way. Telecoms, clamoring for supremacy to have the largest networks, end up having problems all the time, not matter how cool the gadget one uses to access their network is. I can still think of plenty of times where I can't get wireless internet on my computer or my phone- if the carrier I subscribe to doesn't have a signal, if the nearest network requires a password that I'm not privy to. I won't even get into how slow the web browser can be if I'm connecting through my cell phone network.
Google is trying to do its part. It has already implemented WiFi in most of its home town of Mountain View, Calif., and it is proposing to do the same in San Francisco. Smaller communities have begun following suit across the US. While it seems to be helping the public good, perhaps it's a business plan: if everyone is on the web all the time, the SaaS model will win out over time.
I, for one, hope they're right, because their software philosophy that you should minimize how much stuff you have to install is a sound one. Just from the perspective of a user, I've ruined too many computers by downloading software unknowingly. And that's just my consumer laptop.
An enterprise's network -- that's a whole other story entirely.
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