Google May 6 said it will enable users to access Google Reader, Blogger and Picasa Web Albums from Google Apps in fall 2010, satisfying nine of the top 20 requests Apps users make from the company.
Google is moving Google Apps customers to a new infrastructure where they will be able to access Google Web services that aren't part of the core Google Apps collaboration suite from their Apps account.
"For example, co-workers will be able to publish their organization's blog on Blogger, share project images with Picasa Web Albums, track industry news in Google Reader, advertise online with AdWords and much more, all without switching back and forth between multiple accounts," noted Dennis Troper, product management director for Google Apps.
The new apps won't initially be covered by the Google Apps support and service level agreement for companies using Google Apps Standard, Premier and Education Edition. However, Troper said the company will evaluate future support options.
While Google plans to shuttle all Apps users to the new infrastructure this fall, customers will be able to make the switch this summer if they desire a head start.
The move signals an expansion of Google Apps beyond collaboration to other modes of information-sharing. This could provide some measure of defense as Google seeks to stave off challengers. IBM LotusLive and Cisco WebEx Mail have already entered the nascent cloud market to challenge Google.
Microsoft May 12 will launch Office 2010, which in addition to refreshed versions of its on-premise programs sports Web-based editions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. The suite will retail in June.
With Microsoft providing a Web-based alternative to Google Docs, which itself was a Web-based alternative to Microsoft's on-premise Office, Google will have to battle the massive enterprise market share and cachet of the leading productivity and collaboration software provider in the world.
Jonathan Rochelle, the product manager for Google Docs and Sites, whose team just revamped Google Docs with faster layout editors and other tools to make Docs run better, said Google is more than prepared for the challenge.
Rochelle, who stopped by eWEEK's New York offices for a chat May 4, said he doesn't truly understand Office 2010. Rochelle believes Microsoft is offering a mix of on-premise and online programs that will confuse the market.
"I really, truly believe that the complexity of what you need from that set of tools to get what we offer today by just basically singing in, is going to be difficult for consumers and businesses. That talks to the difference [between Google Apps and Office 2010]. The difference between our platforms is that we offer simplicity."
Market confusion aside, Rochelle still doesn't believe there is enough justification to warrant local apps, noting that "collaboration happens on the Web."
He called Google "lucky" because it doesn't have an on-premise legacy code or customer base to bring up to the cloud.
He added that customers don't have to upgrade to Office 2010 to get the capabilities they require when they can just go to Google Apps, including the refreshed Docs suite, for them.