Voracious Google Eyes Enterprise IT Feast

The search/ads giant has big plans to step up its business IT efforts

Not content with having gobbled up swathes of search-related advertising, Google has its eyes set on taking a bigger slice of the enterprise IT pie. Its target areas are characteristically wide and its appetite large-scale.

Google Enterprise president Amit Singh took time out for a media roundtable session amid Atmosphere, Google’s annual and growing event for IT decision makers, CxOs and line-of-business leaders, in London yesterday.

The company celebrated significant new wins for its Apps suite that for several years has been making inroads into Microsoft’s enormous Office suite franchise. New names on the roster include department store John Lewis, supermarket group Waitrose and fashion apparel seller All Saints. In separate efforts, Waitrose and John Lewis, part of the same group, will roll out services to a total of about 60,000 users.

Singh said that a focus on making it simpler for users to exchange documents was paying off.

“Many firms started using Apps as an email and calendaring platform and with the Docs suite [of productivity applications] it has taken some time to get all the functionality present. You’re not looking to do pivot tables on your phone so we made the focus compatibility between Google and Microsoft. That’s why we bought QuickOffice: to get near-perfect fidelity.”

Google said 44% of the UK’s largest companies have deployed Apps in some way and collaboration across people and device types had been an ace card. Cloud services make it simpler for workers to share work while Google’s Hangouts service lets them congregate for virtual meetings.

“John Lewis loves Google Sites as a way to collaborate internally; others use Google+ as a community forum,” Singh said.

Google this week celebrated 10 years of GMail, the email service that changed the face of ‘freemail’ by providing 1GB of free storage at a time when most rivals were offering a few megabytes. GMail now has 750 million users and continues to grow “rapidly”.

Singh said he was relaxed about Microsoft’s efforts to compete in that multi-screen world.

“I have a lot of respect for Microsoft and they have clearly been a great desktop productivity company [but] I feel like they’re still starting [in cloud]. If you use [web versions of] Office and try to do the things Docs has been doing for five, six or seven years, there’s a gap.”

In other enterprise efforts, Google is pushing hard on its platform-as-a-service cloud offering. Chromebooks are also making progress in business and have a stronghold in education. The low-cost devices are used in 3,000 schools globally. Google also remains a leader in enterprise search appliances and in the geo-services space.

Asked whether Google might compete against the new appliance makers like Nutanix and Nimble Storage that are transforming datacentres and often use technologies Google and other internet giants introduced, Singh said: “We’re pretty serious about externalising everything Google does.” But efforts will be “ecosystem-based” with partners taking advantage of APIs and tools provided by Google.

“You can’t and shouldn’t do everything. [Next major enterprise moves are] hard to predict. We have our hands full in markets worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Talking about its core search engine, Singh said he expects more proactive algorithmic help to come.

“Today you ask a question and it gives and answer but [in future you will see] prompting with suggestions. It knows what you like so this movement to assistance in general is thematic.”


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect