Google Reaches into Enterprise Territory

News Analysis: New product announcements, including VOIP tech and a collaborative search tool, suggest that Google may challenge Microsoft for the enterprise desktop.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Internet search giant Google has a series of new products, and more in the works, that suggest the company may be making its move to claim the heart of the business computer desktop.

This is all implied, of course; the word "enterprise" was never uttered during the entire 6-hour Google Press Day event here on May 10. Yet, plenty of products were unveiled that might interest a corporation.

Theres a slicker version of Googles desktop search, which, along with a Sidebar feature, provides a collaborative tool that searches other computers. New features from a collection Google calls Google Gadgets can be easily plugged into the setup.

Another new feature helps the user understand exactly what people are searching for at Google. Thats powerful information for any company that has a Web site, and for the equipment vendor supplying those firms.

And, sooner rather than later, Google plans to add more Internet telephony features to Google Talk, an instant messaging application that, like its competitors, offers a way to make free Internet phone calls. VOIP (voice-over-IP) technology is a growing favorite with enterprises.

During a brief interview, Google CEO Eric Schmidt indicated that the company has many Internet telephony features to introduce. "Expect a lot more from us in this space," he said.

All this follows up the release of Google Calendar, an online day planner that any executive could easily incorporate into the daily routine.

Google is also expected to soon release an Internet-based word processor, a type of application that is an enterprise desktop staple.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Googles purchase of word processing company Writely.

Theres also a lineup of Google-made computer servers aimed for enterprise use. The servers contain a souped-up version of Googles Internet search engine.

If youre keeping score, thats a lot of the same enterprise desktop features that Microsoft offers.

Googles enterprise aspirations surfaced back in January, when the company released Google Pack, a bundle of downloadable software for computer desktops.

What was notable wasnt the applications contained in the bundle, such as a media player and Google Earth satellite mapping. Rather, said Allen Weiner, a search analyst at Gartner, in Stamford, Conn., the important aspect of the Google Pack release is that it marks an attempt by Google to flood the desktop with its own software.

That set of software applications might be consumer-focused, but enterprise-class features were to assuredly follow, Weiner said.

Google "wants to be the front end of a powerful ecosystem and they want control of your desktop to do it," he said in January, when Google Pack was unveiled. "But first they have to get placement on your desktop, and this is the link."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about why some analysts suggest that Google Pack was part of a bid for the enterprise market.

The enterprise-friendly applications presented at the May 10 Press Day add a little more fuel to this theory.

Currently, Microsoft and its Word and Office products would smother Google, should a clash over possession of the desktop arise. For one, theres a quality issue: The performance of features delivered via the Internet, Googles modus operandi, pales in comparison to the performance of store-bought software.

However, consider that Microsoft has adopted Googles own model of using the Internet, rather than a compact disc, to deliver a service or software. So as Microsoft makes more services available on the Net, Microsoft will likely begin to lose its quality edge over Google—it remains to be seen by how much.

Still, even if Google dove headlong into the enterprise desktop effort, it would probably take years, and tons of effort and cash, to make any significant dent. And yet, thats exactly how Google goes about its business, according to Schmidt.

/zimages/2/84833.gifZiff Davis Media eSeminars invite: Join us on May 11 at 2 p.m. ET to learn critical best practices for e-mail and instant messaging applications, including tips on "hygiene" from Gartner.

Because of an enormous cash reserve and multibillion dollar quarterly revenues, "We have the luxury of time," Schmidt said during a question and answer session at the May 10 event.

The closest any executive came on Press Day to acknowledging a sense of competition with Microsoft, let alone any enterprise aspirations, was Google co-founder Sergey Brinns response to a question concerning Googles take on Microsoft: "Well always be aggressive. Dont expect us to stop doing that."

Brinn added that Googles strategy is shaped by the issue of spending. "Weve been limited not so much by capital, but how quickly you can really use that kind of capital," he said.

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