Google Appsperience Marks New Assault on Microsoft Office

Google took another shot of Microsoft's Office dominance with its Appsperience channel program and the finished version of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office.

Google Feb. 24 introduced a new program aimed at luring more business users to its Google Apps suite, which has more than 3 million businesses using programs for e-mail, documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

The 90-Day Appsperience program is a global initiative in which Google will offer unlimited use of Google Apps collaboration software, such as Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Video, along with software support from Google channel partners.

Appsperience is targeted at businesses all around the world who are "encumbered with this legacy collaboration technology that was maybe conceived of and implemented in the 1990s," Jeremy Milo, product marketing manager for Google Apps, told eWEEK.

"We want to make it easy to keep [Google Apps] if they fall in love and want to keep using them after 90 days, but on the other hand if they try it out and decide it's not the right time, we want to make it easy for companies to keep using what they use today without disruptions," Milo said.

The offering, which does not include Gmail, is targeted for larger businesses than the glut of mom-and-pop Google Apps business users paying $50 per user, per year. Appsperience will cost $7,000 for companies with less than 500 employees and $15,000 for businesses with more than 500 employees.

Google channel partners such as Appirio and Cloud Sherpas, which will ensure the Appsperience does not disrupt businesses' existing collaboration suites, keep all of the fees generated from program licensees.

One app that will be included in Appexperience is Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which was formally released on Feb. 24.

Introduced in beta last November, Google Cloud Connect allows employees spread across multiple locations to edit Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications at the same time.

The idea is that work groups can collaborate on the same file at the same time in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 or 2010 on Windows computers without disrupting each other's work. Office comprises 90 percent of the productivity and collaboration tools, so this is naturally a big deal for Google in its bid to overthrow Microsoft's Office hegemony.

As the name implies, Cloud Connect leverages Google's cloud computing infrastructure, and Google's value proposition is that companies don't have to upgrade Microsoft Office or license SharePoint 2010 to enable Web-based collaboration.

Google Apps Product Manager Shan Sinha, who adapted Cloud Connect from technology he created as a co-founder of the DocVerse Google purchased nearly a year ago, said more than 4,000 business customers have been using Cloud Connect in the last few months.

The polished version sports no major feature changes, but had improved reliability and stability, said Sinha, who told eWEEK Google has a "great roadmap in the pipeline" for new Cloud Connect features.

Upgrades will be partly predicated on users' requests, which include suggestions that Cloud Connect be integrated with Google Chat to enable real-time collaboration between users. Sinha also anticipates building more social and information-sharing capabilities into the software.