While it's doubtful that any platform Google can come up will rival its vaunted search engine and related services -- at least in the short term -- many observers are closely watching its activities in the collaboration arena.
One such observer, ZDNet's David Berlind, speculates that Google Apps could become a viable alternative to Microsoft's Office for many companies, largely because of its strengths as a collaboration platform. For Office to work as a collaboration platform, it generally must be used with Microsoft's Sharepoint Server, which Berlind finds unwieldy. In contrast, he says, a combo of Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets is "like pure collaborative oxygen."
The potential complications of swapping Office/Sharepoint for Google Apps involve migration and interoperability issues, most of which should go away with a solution called gShare that Berlind spotlights in a recent blog. (He cautions that he hasn't yet tested it himself, but that its features should allow Office and Google Apps to interoperate.)
Google seems to realize that collaborative applications are what will drive many folks to adopt Google Apps -- or at least give it a try. Web Worker Daily, taking its hints from a recent survey of Google Apps Premier users, hazards a guess at the eight collaborative features it thinks Google will soon add to Google Apps.
We must note that Web Worker Daily's predictions are based pretty heavily on speculation and hearsay, a common but not always accurate combination when it comes to Google. For proof, there's the mini-flap that resulted when on April 19 an entry appeared on the Official Google Blog that many folks mistakenly believed meant that Google had purchased video conferencing software provider Marratech. Within days, Google clarified that it was just buying the software, not Marratech.
In the meantime, all of the major tech publications -- including us -- reported that Google was buying Marratech, presumably as a means of bettering an assault against Microsoft. As is often the case with Google, concrete details remain maddeningly elusive.
Apparently, for now Google intends to use the software internally, to facilitate employee collaboration. While Marratech will continue to develop the software, the Swedish company will no market it, reports Macworld. This, of course, seems to imply that Google may consider integrating the technology into Google Apps or perhaps other products.