This has been rumored for some time, but it's official now. Google is rolling out Google Apps for Your Domain (terrible name) that allows businesses to use gCalendar, gMail, gTalk, and web page creation tool.
The gTalk and web page creation tool aren't particularly interesting to me. But email and calendar are very interesting to me.
Frankly, since we've started Pluggd, we've struggled to find email and calendar solutions that work for a company of our size. Even though our company is primarily comprised of engineer types, we didn't want the hassle of hosting our own email server. Partially this was a cost issue (not wanting to pay for Exchange), but primarily this was a focus issue. We wanted to use our cycles to make Pluggd a great product and not waste cycles of "IT work."
We're currently using webmail.us since it comes with our contract with RackSpace, but we don't love it. It is slow, lacks key features, and has very poor search capabilities. However, our biggest pain is around shared calendering. We want a simple tool that we can use across our team and with the partners, contracters, etc., that are external to Pluggd, but we work with regularly. We haven't found an easy or cost effective solution for this.
I use gmail and gcalendar personally, and I am excited about moving Pluggd to these services. There is a real pain point and Microsoft, despite Office's dominance, has not found a way to address this pain.
I've actually started using Writely lately, and have found it surprisingly adept at dealing with all my needs. The ability to collaborate online and export to Word, PDF, etc., were the key features that have put me over the edge.
I've recently switched from MS PowerPoint to Keynote. So I'm almost completely weened off Microsoft Office. Frankly, this is something I never thought would happen. Moving from Windows to the Mac - fine. Leaving MS Office, for a knowledge worker like myself, was just not something I ever thought would happen. Seems a lot more plausible, and perhaps even likely, now.
Don Dodge, a Microsoft employee, has a post that points out MS Office Live apps, but I don't buy it. The apps he points out are things like Customer Manager, but not the basic core functionality that Google is offering. I think he is missing the point. Perhaps MS Office Live comes out with a bunch of great alternatives to what Google is offering. I have a hard time seeing MS doing anything that directly erodes a $10 billion/year revenue stream. Even if they do, how long with it take before they actually ship something. We'll see. But for now, we're going to give the new Google Apps a test drive.
Newsome.org accurately points out the obstacles for enterprises adopting these types of hosted services.
As I have said many times, corporate America is not going to embrace online applications and storage for a long time- privacy, security, fear of a bad decision, and confidentiality requirements ensure that. But the more individuals and small businesses that opt for Google's free alternatives, the bigger Google's toehold is- both in the office productivity space and in connection with its master plan to be the keeper of all of our data.
However, small and medium sized businesses will eat this up.