Taking a page from its successful, prolific Gmail Labs group, Google Oct. 28 launched Labs for Google Apps, a set of experimental features for businesses and schools using Google Apps.
Built on Google's App Engine, the company's hosted application development platform, the first Labs for Google Apps applications include Google Moderator, Google Code Reviews and Google Short Links.
They were all initially created for internal use at Google. Google released Moderator, which lets users rank and vote on questions to ask in an online discussion group, a month ago.
Google Code Reviews lets developers collaborate with fellow programmers to catch bugs in software changes, while Google Short Links lets users build brief links for your internal and external Web pages.
Google Apps domain administrators can install these applications here from the Google Solutions Marketplace. Installation is simple, with Google providing instructions in Google Docs here.
Once the admin installs and configures the apps, users on a domain will be able to log in and access these features in congress with apps such as Gmail and Google Sites.
Eventually, Google will open up the Labs for Google Apps platform to third-party developers, allowing vendors to build apps for the million-plus businesses that already use Google Apps.
Why is Google doing this? Gabe Cohen, product manager for Google Apps, noted:
""There is a widely held belief that technology progress in the enterprise is slow and methodical, that adoption cycles are long, and that experimentation is inappropriate. Here at Google we believe that experimentation is a good thing-even in the enterprise space.""
Cohen goes on to note that some of Google's best ideas have come from experiments, including Google Maps and Google Suggest. He also noted new Gmail Labs features, but some, like Mail Goggles, are pretty frivolous, so Gmail might not be the best reference point.
This move could jump-start Google's Web application deployment for App Engine, which is plugging along at a modest pace. More importantly, Labs for Google Apps could foster a more symbiotic relationship between Google and its Apps users.
It's one thing to offer business users free applications, but Google seems to be opening up a whole new dimension by letting programming teams write and run their own applications for existing Google Apps customers.
Google has quite a way to go to amassing the talent behind Salesforce.com's AppStore, but Labs for Google Apps offered via the Google Solutions Marketplace are a step in that direction.