Google Pack, a bundle of software from Google Inc. and other companies that was announced by the Web giant on Friday, is aimed squarely at consumers.
But Googles goal is to be the front end for everything people do on a computer, and enterprise use is not far off, analysts and solution providers said.
Google executives described the pack as a means to improve the user experience online, by providing enhanced performance and protection for Web surfers, such as eliminating spyware that inhibits Web surfing.
But outside observers said the release is a move to embed the Google brand on desktops.
“This is more about whats to come than what theyre presenting today,” said Allen Weiner, a search engine analyst at Gartner Group Inc.
“They want to be the front end of a powerful ecosystem and they want control of your desktop to do it. Everything you do—listen to music, word processing—they want search to be a part of it. Then they can monetize it later. But first they have to get placement on your desktop and this is that link.”
Weiner said he suspects Google has more utilities coming, including productivity tools such as an open-source word processor or spreadsheet program. (“Imagine what you could do if spell check were connected to Googles search engine,” he said.)
Once embedded in the consumer space, its only a short leap to corporate use, several onlookers said.
“Theres no longer a distinct boundary between home and office, and consumer behavior often invades the workplace,” said Sue Feldman, a content management and retrieval analyst at IDC Group.
“When people get used to doing something a certain way at home, it changes their expectations of doing it at work. For years people were searching the Web at home with a search box, and they finally asked, Why do I have to type in a three-line Boolean query to find something at the office?”
Because of Googles tremendous collection of data, it becomes much more than a search retrieval, Feldman said.
“So much of human behavior is now aggregated on Google and theres more every day,” she said, adding that functions such as calendars, conferencing, geo-location and CRM (customer relationship management) linked to Google technology are conceivable.
Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc., in Wayland, Mass., said largely consumer-oriented companies such as Google could make a play in the enterprise space, given the proper presentation of their software.
“Desktop search is something thats very useful if you are an individual” working in a corporation, Kay said. “Enterprises can take advantage of well-developed, simplified services.”
Google already manufactures enterprise search products—Google Search Appliance, Google Mini, Google Desktop Search for Enterprise—and Google Earth Pro for business users.
Google Packs a Grab
The Google Pack bundle includes Mozilla Foundations Firefox Web browser, a version of Norton AntiVirus software from Symantec Corp., Adobe Systems Inc.s Reader software, RealNetworks Inc.s RealPlayer multimedia software, Trillian instant-messaging software from Cerulean Studios, GalleryPlayer HD Images and Lavasoft ABs Ad-Aware anti-spyware software.
Google Pack will also include Googles own Desktop Search software, Google Earth satellite imaging and mapping software, Picasa photo-management software, Google Talk instant-messaging program, Google Toolbar for Web browsers, Google Video Player (announced this week) and Google Pack screen saver software.
Google Updater installs and maintains the software and alerts users when updates are available. Norton AntiVirus will be included as a six-month subscription for download with the option to renew for a regular fee, Symantec officials said.
Google Pack is currently available for download with a single installer on the Google.com site, but PC manufacturers and analysts speculate that the bundle or pieces of it could be preinstalled on desktops and notebooks in the near future. Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc. already ship all or most of their PCs, both commercial and consumer, with Google Toolbar.
Intel Corp., announced this week that it is collaborating with Google to provide video search for its Viiv entertainment platform.
HP is examining Google Pack, but has made no plans as to how it will take advantage of the bundle for its desktops and notebooks, said Ann Finnie, an HP spokesperson.
“Weve had great response from users on the [Google] Toolbar and some elements of it are very compelling,” she said. Other elements would not find a market among corporate users, she said, such as Picasa, which competes with HPs own photo management software, and Norton AntiVirus, which would be too weak for enterprise use.
Every component of Google Pack can be matched to a counterpart utility from Microsoft Corp., and many observers have pointed to the rivalry between the two companies for desktop real estate as a motivation for the packs release.
“Theyve created a new ecosystem of applications outside of an operating system,” Weiner said. “Its a very powerful distribution mechanism for what could be a wide variety of applications and services. The operating system is stable and unchanging … Theyre not thinking in those terms anymore. Theyve created a far more dynamic way of managing the devices you use.”
Joe Wilcox, a Microsoft analyst at Jupiter Research Inc., said the bundle is less about competing with Microsoft than driving search traffic.
“Google has more important priorities than Microsoft, and [one of those] is getting more stickiness around its services,” he said. “When you buy an operating system, you are invested in it, you return to it. Theres stickiness. With a search engine, youre merely typing an address in a browser. By releasing stickier products and services—Picasa, G-Mail, Toolbar—theyre creating stickiness [added] to the brand.”
Many consumer and SMB (small and midsize business) customers would be enticed by the cost-free aspect of the package, but most may have little need to download most of the utilities included, said Jim Locke, president of J.W. Locke and Associates, a systems integrator and president of the Small-Medium Business Technology Network.
“There is a lot of interest in some of these products right now,” he said. “But a lot of people are going to look at this and say I already have those and I dont need that, so whats the advantage? Until they come up with real applications to use in day to day processes, Microsoft has the desktop locked up.”