The first update to Google Apps, the tech darling's free suite of business software, is personalization capabilities that will allow administrators to customize home pages for their organizations and then allow users to further customize their home pages as they like. The portal-like option is part of Google Apps for Your Domain, which brings together Gmail, Google Talk and other free collaborative tools.
Google's foray into business software is geared toward small to medium-sized businesses, some of which have small to non-existent IT departments and are finding real value in the free Google Apps tools. When the company releases a paid version, as it is expected to do, they'll most likely sign on. (The addition of Google spreadsheet and word processing will, of course, be a necessity first.)
Analysts are still largely skeptical that Google Apps will ever be a real competitor to Microsoft Office -- it's simply not going to be robust enough and security issues make IT nervous, among other things -- but Redmond is watching uptake of the free biz tools, sometimes referred to as "Google Office," carefully.
As we have observed here, Google may be taking the slow road to "Google Office," but since this is Google we're talking about, it's a road paved with advertising gold.