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As Google's SaaS Assault Begins, Move Over Microsoft Office?

Does "Google Apps for your Domain" Sound the Death-knell for Redmond's World Domination?

Does the release yesterday of "Google Apps for your Domain" sound the death-knell for Redmond's world domination? That is the question sweeping the industry now that the owner of the world's most-used search engine has released a set of hosted applications "for organizations that want to provide high-quality communications tools to their users without the hassle of installing and maintaining software or hardware."

Ever since the launch of Gmail, the software world had been watching and waiting to see if Google would begin to leverage its dominance of search in the direction of a platform offering. Now that users can turn to it not just for e-mail (Gmail) but also for calendaring (Google Calendar), instant messaging (Google Talk), a database system (Google Base), and web-page creation services (Google Page Creator), the trajectory is clear.

Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google's enterprise business, told The New York Times that the move was just a "starting point" for Google in catering to business users. So the $64BN question is: when will enterprise-level word-processing become available from Google, especially since Google now owns Writely?

How long, in other words, before Writely - which, while still in Beta, opened for registration on August 22 - is re-branded as Google Write? And how much longer after that until everything mentioned in this article so far is repackaged as Google Office?

Opening Writely for registration last week demonstrates how fast Google can move. In this case, it took just five months. Writing in the official Google Blog back in March, Jen Mazzon of the Google Writely Team (and one of its creators incidentally) commented:

“To be clear, Writely is still in beta, and it’s far from perfect. Upholding our great user experience means everything to us, so we’re not accepting new registrations until we’ve moved Writely to Google’s software architecture. If you’re interested in giving us a try, we hope you’ll get on the waitlist so we can let you know when you’ll be able to try out Writely.”

The significance of the Writely acquisition, then, is unmistakeable: The Age of SaaS has arrived.

At the end of last year, in our annual predictions round up ("The Shape of i-Technology to Come"), SaaS was named by several of the experts - here's Mitchell Kertzman for example:

"The two trends that will not be new for 2006 but which will continue their growth are Software as a Service (SaaS) or on-demand software and Open Source, which continues to find acceptance in the enterprise."
And J.P. Morgenthal, too, singled out SaaS:
"Self-publishing: Garth Brooks & Wal-Mart, LuLu, MusikMafia. These names all represent a rise in successful self-publishing. Book, magazines, music are all media that are being self-published over the Internet. Soon, this will be expanding to software as Software as a Service (SaaS) becomes more popular."

Software as a Service delivered over the Internet, means that "rather than purchasing and deploying applications inside the enterprise, many companies are buying access to externally hosted applications." You only pay for the software as you use it, and it's essentially a form of outsourcing.

With the model of outsourcing to a dedicated vendor who does one and only one thing come the classic benefits:

  • economies of scale as the vendor can amortize upgrades across a multitude of subscribers
  • highly specific expertise focused on the single application and nothing else
With the result that deploying an application as SaaS rather than the conventional install-locally, license-and-upgrade, can save 30% or more and cut deployment times from 6 to 24 months to, essentially, however long it takes to finalize the contract...which, in the Age of Google, will be seconds.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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