As with any news emanating from the Googleplex, this week's announcement of a partnership between the search giant and outsourcing advisory/services firm Capgemini set computer keys a-clacking in the tech press.
The ostensible goal of the partnership is to get Google Apps into more businesses, especially larger enterprises, and also to give Capgemini a differentiating product in the increasingly commoditized world of services. This is not an exclusive deal, however, so that advantage isn't likely to remain for long.
Nicholas Carr spoke with a Capgemini executive who contends that his firm's deal offers companies a chance to bring Google Apps out into the open instead of dwelling in the shadowy user underworld where they can create headaches for IT departments.
The selling points being pushed by Capgemini, says Carr, are Google Apps' ability to simplify collaboration, especially between employees of different companies, and also to give workers without dedicated PCs and copies of Microsoft's Office access to a passel of useful productivity apps.
OK, fair enough. But Carr makes a point that struck us when we first heard the news. In its drive to become the new boss, Google is starting to look a lot like the old boss. As Carr writes:
I expect that now we'll see a series of similar partnerships between Google and some of the other big guns in the IT business. Of course, there's also an irony here. The giant IT consulting firms symbolize the high cost and ornate complexity of traditional IT. You might say that they're part of the problem that the new wave of Web-based services is supposed to solve. It only goes to show: Business, no less than politics, makes strange bedfellows.
Another niggling question: Google has promoted the simplicity of its Apps as a welcome counterpart to more bloated productivity suites. If it's so darned simple, why do folks need to pay a services provider like Capgemini for support?
Smart ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley makes a similar point. While Google keeps stressing the $50 per-user price point for its enterprise version of Google Apps, "that $50 will be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what customers will pay for GAPE from Capgemini."