Google looks to woo enterprise, sock it to Microsoft

New synch software can use Microsoft Outlook, then store data in Google's cloud

In another move by Google Inc. to woo enterprises to its hosted software, the company today unveiled Google Apps Synch for Microsoft Outlook.

Synch for Outlook is designed to let people use Microsoft Outlook, the software vendor's popular e-mail, calendar and contacts software, and then store the data in the Google Apps cloud infrastructure. It's set up to enable e-mail, calendar and contacts synchronization. Users, for example, can schedule meetings with coworkers, whether they use Google's calendar or Outlook's.

"It eliminates the last hurdle in letting go of Exchange," said Bob Rudy, vice president and CIO of Avago, a Google Apps customer. "The people we've had using it are loving it. They find it exactly the same as Exchange."

Just last month, Google unveiled the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server in another move to make its hosted applications more attractive to business users. That tool is designed to make it easier for BlackBerry users to access hosted Google applications like Gmail, Google Calendar and Contacts.

During a press briefing today, Google product manager Chris Vander Way said the decision to support Outlook is not an indication that Google is cutting back on its efforts to lure enterprise users over to its own e-mail offering - Gmail.

"Many business users prefer Gmail's interface and features to products they've used in the past," said Eric Orth, a software engineer on the Google Apps team, in a blog post today. "But sometimes there are people who just love Outlook. [The new software] enables Outlook users to connect to Google Apps for business e-mail, contacts and calendar. And they can always use Gmail's web interface to access their information when they're not on their work computer."

Dave Girouard, who leads Google's enterprise group, said during the press conference that the company is trying to make it easier for enterprises to adopt Google Apps, and to let users switch to its software at their own pace.

Dan Olds, principal analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, called Google's latest move a smart one. "The ability to work with Outlook gives Google a crucial feature that will open up a much larger market to them," he added. "Many of the customers they would like to capture are currently using Outlook and are not wild about adding yet another tool to their belt. However, being able to use Google Apps with Outlook integration might make a difference to them."

The product is available immediately as part of the existing Premier version of Google Apps, which costs US$50 per user per year. It's available to educational and nonprofit customers for free.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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