Google have released Apps for your Domain, which is more or less the long-promised Google Office. Gmail, Talk, Calendar and Page Creator are part of the suite right now, with Writely and Google Spreadsheet to follow. This is a pretty fully-featured web office suite which takes a pretty violent swipe at Microsoft. All that’s missing is a way to install these applications on an organisation’s infrastructure – much like the Google Search Appliance. Might we also see variants on Google Base, too?
Later this year, Google plans to add its Writely word processor and Google Spreadsheets to the suite, build online collaboration features that work across its applications, and market the whole package to large companies for a fee. Google will include IT-friendly features such as APIs, directory-server integration, guaranteed performance levels, and telephone tech support.
The APIs are perhaps the most important bit: as I’ve already noted, these allow users to customise the system to suit their needs. For larger organisations in particular, this is crucial.
Bold but troubling is word via InformationWeek that “Google’s plans include prompting people who send Microsoft Office documents using Gmail to translate those files into Google’s formats for editing on Google.com, presumably in a forum where ad space is up for sale.” One of the great and valid fears of IT managers is data spread- when your data is spread all over the place, it becomes harder to protect and manage.
However, there are alternatives. As Michael Arrington points out over at Techcrunch, the Zoho Virtual Office has been around for a while, and any company wanting to get into the online office space could do so with an easy acquisition. Unfortunately, Zoho are missing out on important features – like APIs (aside from Zoho Planner), and single sign on between their applications. Update: it would appear there are actually no less than 17 web-based competitors to Microsoft Office.