Google today added core security and policy management facilities from its purchase of Postini to the Gmail application in its Google Apps Premier Edition.
Normally, such product adds are not a big deal, but this is Google. Everyone is waiting with baited breath to see how the search and software vendor is going to endear itself to the enterprise to better compete with Microsoft, IBM and others in the office productivity and collaboration space.
Today's move has even gotten some analysts pumped up, which is generally not an easy thing for folks who've seen everything the industry has had to offer.
Take Gartner analyst Tom Austin, who has been covering corporate e-mail since the 1970s. Austin is particularly taken with the speed with which Google is rolling out improvements to Apps (Postini security features come three weeks after the deal closed).
"You're hearing the march of the million-man army moving across the continent," with SAAS applications, Austin told me earlier this week. "If they don't come out with something new every two weeks I'm going to be shocked."These guys are moving along in a way that nobody in the traditional software industry, and nobody in IT frankly gets, and so I wouldn't be surprised to see them make more acquisitions here."
Austin wouldn't speculate what acquisitions Google might make, but he's convinced we will see major additions to Apps -- acquisitions or product upgrades -- in the next few months. I'm inclined to think we will see small buys to flesh out Apps' features for the rest of the year. After that, who knows?
The Postini assets help with records management, a blanket area that can mean a lot but that partly entails recovering single files from Google's online store of hosted files. This is an area where analysts said the company was sorely lacking, but I can't help but think Google will do more in this space.
Austin dismissed those moves in comparison to Google's SAAS march, noting that Microsoft's news was more along the lines of "we're thinking about [online collaboration], too" while IBM's Symphony news "sounded more like 1993 Lotus Development Company and AT&T announcing Network Notes than what's really going on today."
"The other vendors are sort of announcing on a wish and a prayer...Now, Google Apps is not the answer to all mankind's needs. It's impressive, but they're not there yet. This seems to be on a 10-year cycle of revolutionary changes. We see a significant number of people moving to SAAS. Google's doing a good job of saying 'we're the leader.' "
Austin allowed that Google Apps lacked the deep functionality of Microsoft Office but said he expects Google to change that on its "march."
Fair enough. We still have a long way to go before we get the kind of SAAS penetration rate Gartner is expecting, something in the vicinity of 25 to 30 percent over the next four or five years. But it's fun watching a relatively young company blaze a new trail, and in its wake, a long tail of SAAS hopefuls.