Google Has Eye on Businesses in 2008

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In the interest of full disclosure, I'm telling you straight up: If Google wanted to charge me rent for using its services, I'd have to pay out several pretty pennies. That's how much I benefit from Google.


Sure -- eventually, I'd figure out a way to replace them, but not without a lot of pain, effort and time. I use Google constantly -- as an e-mail client, as an instant messenger, as an RSS reader, as a place to store notes. I've even been known to make a phone call with Google Talk, all on Google's dime.


But even I don't use Google Documents, except on the rare occasion when my husband and I need to share a document and we don't want to e-mail it back and forth. Honestly, I don't use Google documents simply because I fear my internet connection will falter right before I save and I'll lose my work.


So I wasn't surprised to learn that less than a half of a percent of PC users have substituted Web-based productivity suites, such as Google Documents, with traditional desktop software.


That's according to a recent survey by NPD, as cited by Joe Wilcox, who writes eWeek's Microsoft Watch.


Of course, part of the problem is that only 94 percent of the 600 PC users queried have even heard of any Web-based productivity suites.


Does this mean Microsoft is wasting its time building its own online productivity suite? Is the hoopla about Google as a platform just hot air?


Not very likely. In fact, the vice president and general manager of Google's enterprise business division, Dave Girouard, is confident consumers and businesses alike will realize the benefits of online productivity suites -- and other Google offerings, as he explains in this Baseline Q&A about Google's plans for becoming a business platform.


His logic for the Web-based productivity suites is simple: He believes Web-based applications are more secure than desktop productivity suites, especially given how many corporate leaks happen because of stolen laptops. With Web-based systems, you can simply remove access to the online documents.


Interesting argument, and apparently, one that's working with small businesses, according to Girouard. It's also attracting the attention of some larger companies, though at this point, it's hardly a trend.


The interviewer asked Girouard about Google's plans for 2008. Girouard clarified that Google isn't interested in moving to the big enterprise application spaces of CRM or ERP. But he does predict Google Apps will take off with small and large companies.


Given how much my bill would be if Google started charging, I'm certainly not going to argue with Girouard about the potential of Google's technology.