I’m not sure how many people have picked up on an announcement that Google made last week, but it definitely caught the attention of my dev team. (For those that may be new to this blog, I work for a company that offers Hosted Exchange and Hosted OCS services.)
Here’s the announcement.
Google has developed a way to help companies move onto Google Apps–and away from Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail software–without forcing a migration to the Gmail user interface.
Microsoft’s Outlook has been the dominant e-mail client within the business world for years, and Google’s new Apps Sync for Outlook plug-in acknowledges that some business workers just aren’t ready to give up that familiar interface, even if their CIOs are anxious to get everybody onto Google’s version of the cloud. Businesses who have already signed up for Google Apps Premier Edition–as well as Education Edition customers–will be able to roll out this plug-in across their networks and allow Outlook messages, contacts, and calendar appointments to sync with Google Apps.
Google is trying to expand its presence inside the world’s corporate IT departments with products like Google Apps, which the company says offers a cheaper and more reliable alternative to traditional IT software companies. Quoting data from Forrester, Google’s David Girouard, president of Enterprise products, said companies who chose to use Google’s hosted Gmail service save about $17 per user per month as compared to companies that build and host their own e-mail servers.
Now, I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there thinking that we’re screwed. And I’m not sure that is completely true yet.
First off, we’re the first hosting provider to tie in hosted OCS with Broadsoft. Not something that everyone has done. But what does that have to do with Exchange? Everything. Its about presence. The killer application for exchange is NOT email, its calendering. OCS + Broadsoft is an extension of that. Having your IM status update because you are on a call is pretty cool and not something that a hosted service can typically offer.
Second, is Google ready for the Enterprise? Is the Enterprise ready for Google? There is still the perception that Google is beta (more below). Exchange can safely say that they are a carrier grade solution. They have done some heavy lifting for enterprises for many years and enterprises are well entrenched in their Exchange systems. Having an outlook plug-in may break that for some of the smaller guys. But I highly doubt that they will be converting the big boys with the 20,000-30,000 users.
Now, how well does this play in the SMB space? These would be the 5-50 email account systems. Well, I think it will play fairly well for those that want to shell out the cash for the premier version which will be required for the outlook plug-in. But for most, even when the costs are cheaper, there is still a group of admins out there that will not outsource their email to Google. Here’s an example:
Recently, one of my former co-workers a few jobs back was talking about putting up a new email system. They were working away from having it dog food off their hosted service. This way in case there was a catastrophic issue with the system, they could still get support email. The system has been around for many many years and new development isn’t part of the daily routine anymore so moving it out makes logical sense.
Now, he mentioned how he was putting together this box that would allow IMAP, POP, incoming and outgoing mail and webmail access. I had to ask him why? Why not just setup Google apps for domains? You could be up and running with all those services in under an hour and with the number of employees there, it would cost him nothing which was an important selling point. Because believe me, I’d love to sell him my service but the budget just isn’t there. His response to me was two fold. First, he doesn’t want to use a beta product. I don’t think that the email is beta anymore but even if it is, I’ve never had an issue. Second, he doesn’t trust Google. Now that one I’m not sure any convincing on my part would be able to overcome. But this isn’t the first time that I have heard it. There are some people that are drinking the Kool-Aid and think that Google can do no wrong. There are others that sense something is not right under the hood there. I personally don’t have major issues with them. I think that they collect a lot of data which makes them a bit dangerous, but so far, they haven’t done anything to jeopardize my trust with them.
So where does that leave us? I’m not 100% sure. I’m not sure having the plug-in will suddenly make people look around and go, “Holy crap, I could move all my email to Google and still use outlook, freaking awesome! ” The area that I think it will play pretty well is the smaller customers that really need the calendaring and are big time outlook users. They might start struggling for a bit of money and maybe they decide to take the leap to Google away from their hosted Exchange service to save a few bucks. But I’m pretty sure that this won’t suddenly convert a huge group of the IMAP / POP crowd as they have always had the calendaring issues and use an array of clients. So they’re not 100% sold on the outlook side of things.
Time will tell I guess.