Much of the "Google vs. Microsoft" noise, a perenially popular story line in the technology press, has died down in recent months. Maybe people just got tired of it. Maybe folks are too focused on broader economic woes. Maybe the companies' own efforts to downplay the competition angle are finally taking hold.
I know I'm sick of it. When I wrote about Google's enterprise-oriented Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) a few months ago, I tried to avoid comparisons to Microsoft's Office productivity suite. But it's tough to do, largely because Microsoft is so entrenched that most folks can't help but use it as a point of reference. The simplest way to sum up the strengths and weaknesses of Google Spreadsheets, for instance, is to compare it to Microsoft's Excel -- which is exactly what many of my story sources did. After highlighting ease-of-use and collaborative capabilities as their favorite features of Apps, they'd point out in the next breath that these were things Microsoft didn't do well.
Much of the criticism of GAPE to date has focused on Google's apparent difficulty in understanding the usual way of doing things in the enterprise -- or unwillingness to conform to this kind of "business as usual." That won't change any time soon, judging by the comments of analysts in a PCWorld article written following a Tweet by Google's Dave Girouard hinting that the company intends to link App users with "every damn Google service." Such Google services as the Blogger blogging platform, Groups forum-building platform and FeedBurner RSS application could be tweaked for internal collaboration, speculate the article's authors.
After implying that Twitter isn't the right place to provide product guidance, Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wettemann said:
If it's a message to the enterprise decision-maker, he's missed his mark.
Guy Creese, a Burton Group analyst I interviewed in my GAPE piece, told PCWorld that linking Apps to Google services such as Website Optimizer, Translate, Notebook and Checkout could help strengthen GAPE's appeal to Google's "core constituency," SMBs, but won't provide much incentive for enterprises to try it. Echoing what he told me when I interviewed him, Creese said enterprises want "certain base capabilities" not included in GAPE, such as role-based administration and more robust records management capabilities.
Still, as I wrote in February, at least some larger companies find GAPE suits their needs just fine. And some recent improvements to Google's Apps Engine, perhaps most notably a Secure Data Connector that makes it easier to link Apps to data stored behind corporate firewalls, should create more enterprise interest in GAPE. The significance of this feature can be gauged by some of the accompanying announcements involving enterprise vendors.
Oracle announced its Siebel CRM software could interact with Google Apps through the Secure Data Connector. It also introduced a tool called Gadget Wizard for Google Apps that enables users to create Oracle gadgets that work with Google Sites. Cast Iron Systems took the wraps off Cast Iron for Google Apps, which provides connectors for exchanging encrypted data between enterprise applications and Google's applications.
PivotLink, a supplier of Web-based business intelligence tools, unveiled PivotLink Gadget, which lets users create custom BI dashboards within Google Apps. The example offered by Computerworld's Mark Everett Hall: Users could combine sales data from a Google Docs spreadsheet with weather data from regions where stores are located, and then annotate it with e-mails to determine how storms affected a particular sales promotion. Hall predicts that the introduction of more enterprise-class tools like this one will lead to more enterprise adoption of GAPE.