Google's announcement of its application hosting service has renewed Web buzz that it will soon be banging heads with Microsoft Office by offering a full-blown, Web-based productivity suite.
The beta offering, dubbed "Google Apps for Your Domain," is targeted at businesses that want to offer "stickiness" features -- IM, e-mail and calendaring. Affiliates will be able to brand these applets with their own look and feel to make it appear that their companies are providing the services, but in fact they all will be hosted at Google's Kansas-sized server bank.
The common thread here is that all the services are ideal vehicles for Google advertising products, which of course is how Google makes all its money. The one exception is a simple Web authoring tool that Google has thrown in as bait for small shops or individuals to sign on for its new apps package.
Much like Blogger, this new app offering will induce everyday Internet users to create even more viewed pages -- e-mail messages, IM windows and the like -- to feed Google's seemingly limitless demand for eyeballs at which to push AdSense listings.
This is one of the smartest moves we've seen Google make in a while, since it plays solidly to its core revenue model. We'd also note that its word processing and spreadsheeting packages are not included in the beta (although Google is offering to take suggestions for more advanced apps for a forthcoming fee-based service).
The evangelic zeal that has led much of the tech media to pronounce that this is another step toward Google Office is misplaced.
We're not saying that Google Office won't happen, mind you, but this is merely a smart repackaging of Web-based collaboration tools that are already available. The ability to administer them via a domain-based login will make some apps -- particularly Google Talk IM -- more attractive to small businesses, to be sure.
But core productivity features are another matter.
UPDATE: InformationWeek is reporting this morning that Google does in fact plan to add its word processing and spreadsheet software to the Google Aps package. The piece also suggests that Google may try to create an ad-driven environment where users can import and export MS-formatted documents for collaboration.
In the enterprise world, that's called a WLAN.