The Googrilla in the Midst
Microsoft has done an impressive job of responding to Google Apps with Office 365. Office is more feature robust, and Google excels at multi-user collaboration. Both solutions include office productivity applications, IM/presence, calendaring, and messaging. The big gap is with voice and conferencing. Microsoft offers Lync (hosted and on-prem) that is tightly integrated, and Google has bupkis.
Don’t count Google Voice as a viable business-class voice solution that completes Apps. It is a nice application for personal use, but insufficient for most organizational needs. Not to mention it appears largely abandoned by Google. I have doubts Google will even keep it around much longer. Google has a tendency to kill-off sometimes popular products; Reader, Wave, Gears, and Buzz all had more potential. It was a revolutionary service when it was introduced in 2009, but not so much anymore – in fact it is largely unchanged.
Running into a person or business using Google Apps is increasingly common – big firms, too. Google Apps is clearly penetrating government and education. Sixty-six of the nation’s top universities are using it; as is my local school district. Google Apps provides a cost-effective cloud-based solution for typical/common tasks. We can thank Google for Office 365, which Microsoft priced competitively.
There were also several clues at Enterprise Connect that enterprises are adopting Apps. Esna, one of the first firms to integrate the UC experience with Google Apps, was featured in both the Cisco and Avaya booths and Cisco now resells it. Siemens Enterprise has an OpenScape/Apps integration through its Fusion application. Mitel can seamlessly integrate with Google Apps including presence, phone status, and calendaring.
Google Apps does particularly well with small businesses, and many are likely good fits for hosted UC. gUnify integrates Google Apps (presence, directory, calendar, etc.) with hosted UC. The solution is available now from SimpleSignal. gUnify further integrates other popular cloud services such as CRM. The firm is growing by referring Google Apps resellers to its expanding network of service providing partners.
While most UC vendors are quick to show-off integrations with Office and Exchange, integrations with Google Apps hasn’t had the same visibility. I expect a big chunk of the UC industry to start openly embracing and endorsing Google Apps; here’s four reasons why:
1) I believe Google Apps to be a more powerful force than generally perceived. Because it hasn’t displaced Office as it’s grown, it’s under the radar. But with more and more businesses, schools, and governments implementing it, the market is growing.
2) Conversely, Google Voice is less powerful than generally perceived. Many assume it’s a business class platform and don’t discover otherwise until trying it. That means there’s an existing/emerging UC/Google Apps integration opportunity.
3) It made sense for all UC vendors to embrace MS Office when there were no alternatives and Microsoft wasn’t a competitor. But UC firms are beginning to question this arrangement. I just saw a social media post from a Cisco Business Development Manager stating “Any company–looking O365–that doesn't explore and evaluate Google Apps, is not doing sufficient due diligence.” Also, customer organizations that do not embrace MS Office are less likely to be interested in Lync.
4) The Cloud continues to grow. As organizations move to the cloud, we’ll see an expansion in the quantities of services hosted afar. This includes both office productivity suites and UC.
Not long ago, many UC vendors feared Google as a new potential competitor. Rather than a threat, Google may end up being a powerful ally.