RE/MAX International doesn't use Google Apps. The company has relied for years on Microsoft Exchange, Outlook and Office. But Graning is intrigued by cloud-based applications as a possible alternative, not only to cut costs but also to provide tools that give its corporate employees and real estate agents an edge over the competition.
She had a chance to hear from CIOs at the event who successfully migrated thousands of employees from Exchange and IBM's Lotus Notes to Google Apps. "It has been a great opportunity to hear more about cloud computing," she said.
Graning also likes the style of communication from Google's enterprise team. "They educate, they provide information, they share. It's not a hard-sell type of environment like at other software vendors," she said. "That's the right attitude to have."
Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann calls the improvement to Docs necessary and incremental, but not earth-shattering. "These are all things users are looking for. Do these enhancements make Docs a replacement for Microsoft Office tomorrow? No," she said.
Nonetheless, the upgrades make Docs a more credible alternative to Microsoft Office, which helps Google in its campaign for adoption of the cloud-based Apps in the enterprise, she said.
"Google's model is to get people to move to the cloud. The more attractive Google makes its tools, the easier it is to convince organizations about this," Wettemann said.
Google hopes that Apps, which has been adopted mostly by small companies, continues gaining momentum among large organizations with its Premier edition, which costs US$50 per user per year and has management, security and compliance features that enterprise IT departments require.
Google maintains that Apps, built from the ground up with a cloud computing architecture, is a better, less expensive alternative to traditional communication and collaboration platforms from vendors like Microsoft, IBM and Novell designed to be installed on customers' premises and servers.
However, Microsoft, IBM, Novell and other collaboration vendors are busy retooling their software to take advantage of the cloud computing model.
It's important and significant to see Google keep improving Docs, said Ted Schadler, a Forrester Research analyst. "Google continues to invest in this product. That more than anything else is the story. They're not just going to let this thing sit there. They're going to go for it and continue to use the cloud delivery model as a way to innovate faster," he said.
These continuous improvements will go a long way to help Docs and Apps in the enterprise, even if Docs isn't yet on par feature-wise with Microsoft Office, he said. "I don't see this as a replacement strategy but more as an augmentation strategy," Schadler said. "CIOs and IT executives aren't really looking to get rid of Microsoft Office. They're looking to solve employee problems not well-solved by Office. A big one is collaboration scenarios."
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