Google Apps Premier Edition Fills Collaboration Gap for Some Big Companies


When I wrote about Google Apps' readiness for business use last month, I had no trouble locating converts among small companies using the free basic edition. It was a tougher task to find companies using Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), which costs $50 a year per seat. With Google's help, I located Cultural Care, a global provider of au pair services, which hopes to move 200 full-time employees to GAPE this year, while keeping another 700 or so part-timers on the free edition.


As much as my sources liked Google Apps for their small companies (and they liked it quite a bit), some of them contended it would be a tougher call for a larger enterprise with significant sunk costs in internal infrastructure. Yet GAPE is winning some companies in that category. As ITPro reports, employees at two large UK publishing groups, the Telegraph Media Group and the Guardian News and Media Group, are now using GAPE.


Both companies tout the advantages of workers being able to access Apps from anywhere with a Web browser, a feature also mentioned by my story sources. Garth Callaghan, owner of tech support company 127tech, told me that he and his employees are frequently on the go and access Google Apps via their mobile devices, for example.


The Guardian's technology director for enterprise operations says the company became interested in Apps after 30 employees used it to communicate and collaborate during the Beijing Olympics last summer. Previously, the company had used IBM's Lotus products for collaboration. GAPE's "competitive cost model" and ease of setup and use helped win him over, the director tells ITPro. He is currently exploiring different ways of importing data and workflow tools into Apps. Apps better meets his staff's "expectations of technology" by allowing them to do more on their own, without IT. Google promotes this as a key advantage, both for its own employees and for those at other companies, as I wrote last March.


Similarly, some 100 Telegraph employees who participated in a GAPE trial last year liked its flexibility and accessibility, the company''s CIO tells ITPro. Interestingly, he says the company's decision to purchase 1,400 GAPE seats is part of the company's plan to adopt a broader "cloud-computing model." When I interviewed Saugatuck Technology VPs Michael West and Mark Koenig about a new reseller program for GAPE, they told me Apps and the larger concept of cloud computing had gained more traction in Europe than in North America, perhaps because Microsoft is less entrenched there.


The two men, and Burton Group analyst Guy Creese, another source whom I interviewed for my story, agreed that Google hopes resellers will give GAPE added enterprise exposure before the introduction of Office 14, Microsoft's forthcoming software suite that is expected to feature at least some software-as-a-service components. Most observers expect Office 14 to ship in early 2010, but Microsoft has a reputation for product delays. That could give Google an edge, West and Koenig told me. But Creese doesn't think so, considering the slow pace of change at most companies.