Google has unveiled plans today to allow Google Docs to store any type of files, and revealed a new tool from Memeo to enable users to access, migrate, and synchronize files between their desktop and Google Docs. These announcements signify a broader strategy by Google to help business customers bridge the gap between the desktop and the cloud.
Google has been aggressively vying for business customers to adopt its various cloud-based products and services as alternatives to the traditional Microsoft culture: Gmail instead of Exchange and Outlook, Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, etc.
Even Google, though, as dominant and powerful as they are in many areas of technology, can not ignore the fact that Microsoft occupies a comfortably dominant share of the enterprise messaging and business productivity software segments. As compelling as its products are, Google's customers still have to operate in and interact with a Microsoft world.
Many customers see appeal in what cloud-based applications and services have to offer, but they are reluctant to trust the cloud. Businesses rely on the availability of messaging and business productivity applications and there have been enough outage stories to give potential customers reason for concern. Trusting all data to the cloud with no local or alternate backups is also like playing Russian roulette.
As much as Google might wish for a mass exodus away from Microsoft, it has recognized that customers can not simply turn off or walk away from Microsoft entirely, and that customers are tentative about putting too much trust in the cloud too soon.
To address those issues, Google has shifted its strategy some and embraced third-party partners to enable customers to take advantage of what Google has to offer in the cloud without giving up the tools and software they use on their desktops.
I interviewed Spencer Chen, director of corporate communications for Memeo, who explained "There have been more than one proofpoint and market research study surrounding how businesses intend on deploying Google Apps. The overwhelming feedback points to a hybrid-model--where [customers] need to continue their investment in office productivity suites like Microsoft Office (since it is such a prevalent standard), but intended on taking advantage of unique online collaboration capabilities that only Google Apps can offer. It really was the best of both worlds for SMBs and enterprises."
Chen added "Believe me, Google knows this intimately and are leveraging it with customers to gain beachheads into some big customers!"
Allowing users to upload files of any type into Google Docs, and expanding the maximum file size as high as 250Mb for most file types provides users with a means of sharing and collaborating on files that are far too large to be sent via email. The default storage space is only 1Gb, though, so users that plan on heavy use of Google Docs as a file storage or collaboration solution will have to pay Google for additional space.
Memeo Connect for Google Apps lets users migrate and sync data between desktop-based applications like Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Manymoon provides users with an online project management solution. Syncplicity gives users the tools they need to manage files and automate backups.
Each of these partners fills a unique gap in the services provided by Google, and makes it easier for potential business customers to leverage the benefits of what Google has to offer without abandoning the investment in, and familiarity with, existing products and applications.
Chen described the interaction dealing with Google "In our 10-plus months working with Google on this particular initiative, one thing was evident: These are really smart people. Even though their world revolves around being on-demand and online, they were extremely conscious of the complete user experience--online and desktop. They clearly understood that the user experience didn't merely end when someone closed their browser. We--as a software application company--were surprised...pleasantly surprised."
The day may eventually come when customers can cut the proverbial cord and sever themselves completely from Microsoft Office if they choose. Until that day arrives, though, Google is taking steps in the right direction to give potential customers the latitude to embrace the cloud without surrendering the desktop.