Thus far, YouTube has been more of a hassle than anything else for Google, with no clear plans for generating revenue in sight, an increasingly troublesome legal battle with Viacom, and an Italian broadcasting company filing a lawsuit against the video-sharing site.
But now Google is offering YouTube-like capabilities to its premium Google Apps users. There is no added cost for the secure video-sharing service. It's included as part of the annual $50-per-user package, which also includes Gmail, instant messaging, calendaring and productivity applications such as spreadsheets.
Google could be on to something here. As I wrote last week, even companies that are lukewarm about Web 2.0 are warming to videoconferencing and online training, thanks in no small part to rising fuel costs. Video is also coming on fast as a collaboration aid at companies such as Cisco. Yet cost and complexity are still deterrents for SMBs and other budget-conscious businesses. Google minimizes both of those by hosting the service.
No technical upgrades are required. An Internet connection and Web browser are all that's required to use the service. Each user will get 3 gigabytes of video a year, roughly 300 minutes. Videos can be shared with selected individuals or groups or disseminated among an entire organization. Video can be embedded on any internal Web page, and users can search for videos, add comments to them and rate them. Upping the cool factor even further, the service can be added to iPhones.
Sure, it's a little gimmicky. But one man's gimmick is another man's differentiator. A CIO.com article quotes Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wetteman saying:
We can all think of a time where we said let's put this in an email or go over it on a call. With video, we get even more context. Now they can look at you and know what you're saying...
Will this help Google overcome its well-publicized service issues with Apps? Well, no. In a recent post, IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle compares Google to another would-be Microsoft killer, Netscape, which "ran against Microsoft at its peak, tried to move on price, had no history of reliability, and was way too full of its own fame." He writes:
No matter how upset an IT manager is at Microsoft, they are unlikely to change a known and manageable problem for one that is also known, but unmanageable, no matter what the savings. Enterprises are Google's longest yard and the company has only itself to blame for making it so.
Google took a step -- albeit not a huge one -- toward rectifying its service issues by moving to introduce a system status reporting dashboard for Apps Premier users, reports ZDNet's Michael Krigsman. Users will be notified of problems and offered a continuously updated time-to-resolution. More serious outages will generate formal incident reports and, in some cases, individual customer consultations. Google is following the leads of Salesforce.com and Amazon, both of which offer similar services to business users, Krigsman points out.