Google Apps Takes One For The Team

UPDATED: Google is now offering another free version of its online software suite.

Google Apps Team Edition is designed to help employees, students or other groups within an organization, quickly set up a collaborative work group without the IT department. Users can sign up online for the applications and establish access to shared documents by providing the email address of their company or organization.

Google Apps Standard (also free) and Google Apps Premier ($50 per user, per year) require an IT administrator to sign in for the service and set it up for shared use. “We’re bringing in the notion of self-service applications,” Jeremy Milo, senior marketing manager at Google, told InternetNews.com. “The benefit is you can more easily and quickly collaborate on presentations, calendars items, plan for events and use tools like Google Talk for instant messaging.”

The Team Edition, available now, includes Google Docs for the creation and sharing of documents, spreadsheets and presentations; Google Calendar for scheduling and publishing event information and Google Talk for IM and free PC-to-PC voice calls. Additional users with the same company or organization domain email address can be invited to join the group at any time.

Unlike the others, Team Edition does not include GMail, but does support the email people are already using. “Team Edition is also an easy onramp to Standard or Premier Editions, so if an IT department wants to manage the Google Apps its easy to switch, we encourage that,” said Milo.

With the other editions, IT can modify accounts by, for example, adding GMail support. The Premier Edition also has integration features to connect to company’s infrastructure and support for single sign-on as well as 24/7 tech support online and via phone.

Google also released the latest use figures for the Google Apps suites, noting over half a million businesses have signed up.

Microsoft Office remains by far the dominant productivity suite, but
Google hopes to chip away at the software giant with its on-demand
suite
that costs far less (free for Team and Standard) and its
collaborative features. In addition to its standard desktop edition,
Microsoft offers a hosted Office
Live
edition that is free for registered MS-Office users.

Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver said Google has a ways to go to
catch Microsoft, but is quickly becoming a part of the discussion. “They’re
not really competing on an apples to apples basis,” Driver told
InternetNews.com. “But in every single information workplace strategy
consultation I get involved in, where the organization is looking at portals
and collaboration features, Google almost always comes up. In a couple of
years the expectation is that Google will have established itself as an
enterprise-class viable alternative.”

Driver noted that Google falls short of Microsoft’s Sharepoint and other
collaborative offerings by not offering such features as version control of
documents and sub-grouping.

“You don’t necessarily want everyone in the group to have access to every
document as in the Team edition,” she said. “But I’m sure Google will
continue to enrich the product.”

Separately, Google announced earlier this week, Google more stream-lined, low-pricing for its Postini on-demand security which can be used in conjunction with Google Apps or separately with legacy systems.

(Update adds comments from Forrester’s Driver.)

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