Google set to take on collaboration giants

Company's new API can, among other things, move files from Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes to Google Sites collaborative content development tool

Signaling an intent to compete with giants in the collaboration software space, Google is introducing an API to extend the Google Sites collaborative content development tool, featuring a capability to migrate files from workspace applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes to Sites.

One application already built using the Google Sites API is SharePoint Move for Google Apps, developed by LTech for migrating data and content from SharePoint to Sites. Google Sites is a free application for building and sharing Web sites; it is described by Google as a collaborative content creation tool to upload file attachments, information other Google applications such as Google Docs, and free-form content.

Asked if Google, with its API, plans to compete with SharePoint and Lotus Notes in the collaboration space, a Google official sidestepped the question.

"As a wiki, Google Sites is a powerful collaboration container, and we have a large number of customers using the product in this way," said Scott Johnston, senior product manager for Google sites, in an e-mail response. "We plan to continue to invest in this direction."

But an industry analyst said the API appears to show Google's desire to be a player in the collaboration arena. "It does seem like they're trying to kind of get into this space," said analyst Al Hilwa of IDC.

"I think they want to be in every category, but they want to be in a Web approach. They want to habituate the user community to a Web style of doing everything," Hilwa said. Google, though, has to understand corporations are not quite ready for this yet but believes it is just a matter of time, he said.

The API, released by Google Code Labs, enables exporting of Google Sites pages and editing them offline. Also with the Sites API, updates can be made from third-party applications. For example, a sales team's Google Sites page can be automatically updated when new leads are added to a CRM system. The API is a Google Data API, offering standard protocol support around authentication and querying.

Users can re-import updated content. Sites also can be exported for backup, and users can monitor changes across internal and public sites from a single gadget, Google said. Content such as changes to employee policies or a new corporate logo can be pushed to any site on the user's domain.

Like other Google Data APIs, the Sites API offers standard protocol support around authentication and querying.

In addition to SharePoint Move for Google Apps, an application already built on top of the API is the open source import/export project on Google Code, for exporting entire sites as static HTML, maintaining structure and page hierarchy.

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