Googles Non-Starter Office

Opinion: Google Apps for Your Domain is not a Microsoft challenger. Deal with it.

The headlines read: "Google releasing an office suite"; "Updated: Google takes aim at Microsoft with apps bundle"; and "Google expands into business software market." Oh, please. Google Apps for Your Domain is none of the above.

Beneath all the hype, beneath an incredibly awkward name, theres just a set of long-existing, perpetually beta, Internet programs.

These familiar faces are: Gmail; Google Calendar; Google Talk; and Google Page Creator.

This is not the long-rumored Google Office. This is not, in any way, sense or form, a Microsoft Office competitor. And, most of all this is not a heating up of the Google-Microsoft cold war.

Its simply Google playing tit for tat with Microsoft. The Evil Empire announced a beta of WLE (Windows Live Essentials) in mid-August. Google announces GAYD (Google Apps for Your Domain) during the last week of August.

While its nice to see someone playing Microsofts classic winning game of announcing non-product news to slow down the competition, GAYD also has the same problem as Microsofts tried-and-true tactic: Theres really nothing new here.

Listen, I like Gmail, but Im not crazy about it, and that sums up the feelings of a lot of people I know in business. And, as for using it for a SMB (small to midsize business) or nonprofit e-mail front-end, I dont think so.

The interface may be innovative, but I know too many users who find it annoying. In addition, several CIOs have told me in the two years that Gmail has been around that theyre none to crazy about corporate e-mail sitting out there in Googles hands.

No, if you want a new, better e-mail interface for business, try Evolution on Linux or Thunderbird on Windows.

I find Google Calendar much more interesting, myself. I could see micro-businesses, fewer than 10 employees using it, but after that... well, again, I want the data under, if not my control, then at least the control of my outsourcing company.

Google Talk? Its a fine IM (instant messaging) client, but, in the businesses I follow, AIM (AOL Instant Messaging) is still the gold-standard of IM.

I appreciate Google Talks support for IM open standards, but if a business cant use it to talk to its customers or partners... well how much good is it?

Finally, theres the Google Page Creator. This is a simple to use, online Web design program for simple, static Web pages.

If I want my workers creating Web pages on my Web site, Ill get a simple to use, open-source CMS (content management system) like WordPress.

If I want something fancier, its Drupal for me.

Its not that these are bad programs. Theyre not. Theyre useful. Calendar, in particular, works well and is great when you have workers scattered across the country.

But come on, Google. Packaging these programs together doesnt really do anything new for users. And, trying to convince businesses that youve got something special for them this time is misleading.

Come the day that you put together a package with Writely and Google Spreadsheets, and then youll have some real news for the SMB and nonprofit markers.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about Google Spreadsheets.

The enterprise? Come on, lets get real. No ones online software offerings are enterprise worthy, and Googles are no different.

If you really want a Microsoft Office replacement, dont look to Google to hand it to you someday. Instead, look at StarOffice or OpenOffice on Aug. 28.

Open-source, not Google, has the answers you need if youre tired of paying the Microsoft Office update tax.

Ziff Davis Internets Linux and Open-Source Linux Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been working and writing about technology and business since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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