RealTime IT News

Google Pushes to Unseat Microsoft Exchange

Leopard Screen
Click on the graphic for a view of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook.
SAN FRANCISCO -- In its most direct assault on Microsoft's business applications, Google unveiled Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook at a media event here. The new Apps Synch plug-in is designed to help companies move off of Microsoft's Exchange server, to Google's cloud service, with the option to maintain Outlook's interface and features.

Apps Sync is available now, but only for users of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Apps Premier, a suite of cloud-based applications that costs $50 per user, per year, and to qualified education and nonprofit organizations.

The Apps Sync plug-in synchronizes e-mail, calendar and contacts data in either Outlook 2003 or 2007 with Google Apps. Google said a simple, two-click migration utility lets IT move user data from Exchange.

Google had some high profile customers on hand at the event, including biotech giant Genentech and chip maker Avago Technologies who have been using a test or beta version of the product.

Another customer, Morgans Hotel Group, said it recently switched from Exchange to Google Apps for all of its 1,700 users across different locations in the course of about a month. "We eliminated 16 servers that were at the end of their lifecycle and due to be replaced, so we saved money right away and there will be fewer to buy going forward," Jason Harper, vice president of technology at Morgans Hotel Group, told InternetNews.com.

Google surely wishes more big companies adopted for its Apps suite across the board, but more typically it's being used by groups and divisions within an enterprise. "We don't believe companies are going to get rid of (Microsoft) Office, it's more nuanced than that. Office has its role," said Dave Girouard, president of Google's enterprise business. "Office has its role, and it's a very great set of products for a set of things, but we think users ought to have more choice."

Chris O'Connor, IT director at Genentech, said user response among his Outlook users has been positive. "Often times IT guys aren't the most loved, but getting people to go 'Wow' makes my life easier," he said. With Apps Sync, Outlook users gain more storage and, Google said, significant speed improvements.

Bob Rudy, CIO of Avago Technologies, a semiconductor spin-off of Agilent, said he's satisfied with the security and reliability of Google's cloud model. "It's been vetted by our security intrusion folks and it's a non-issue," he said. "I believe in multi-tenant and scaling for the price advantage."

He also said Google's pace of delivering updates and improvements won him over. "The innovation cycle from Google, sometimes we see a couple of builds a week. That's versus months and years it takes the enterprise vendor," said Rudy. "It took Oracle two years to get us a Firefox implementation, that's unbelievable."

Outlook interface stays

Analyst Rebecca Wetteman said it was smart of Google to adopt the Outlook interface.

"I think Google recognized that part of the biggest hurdles for companies moving to Apps is that their staffs understand how Outlook works, they know how to use it and don't want to switch to say Gmail and have to explain things like how the folders work differently," Wetteman, analyst with Nucleus Research, told InternetNews.com.

Matthew Glotbach, director of enterprise product management at Google, agreed that one of the roadblocks Google has hit in trying to sell to enterprises is that typically a few senior executives and administrators love Outlook and "the only way you're going to get them off it is to pry it from their hands."

With Apps Sync, "our goal is to make it look exactly the same (as Outlook) to the user," he told InternetNews.com.