| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Network administrators, the
custodians of an organization's passwords and privileges, may
want to find another job as Google Inc (GOOG.O) helps business
users set up and manage their own work groups.
On Thursday, Google expanded its free software suite,
called Google Apps, to the so-called enterprise market to allow
co-workers or students to collaborate on documents, calendars
or presentations and to chat via instant messaging.
Google Apps Team Edition, as the Web service is known, adds
teamwork features to the 18-month-old software, which initially
allowed users to share documents only with other individual
users, but lacked some group management features required by
"We basically removed the notion of an administrator," said
Matthew Glotzbach, product management director for Google
Enterprise, the company's business software unit.
"Everybody is on an equal footing. Any user can share a
document with all the users," Glotzbach said.
Information technology (IT) managers have emerged as the
disciplinarians of corporate life, enforcing policies needed to
manage increasingly complicated systems as efficiently as
possible in budget-constrained organizations.
In response, IT administrators often bear the brunt of
frustrations many office workers have with technology.
BOTTOMS-UP VS. TOP-DOWN
Google has become a popular provider of Web search and
software tools inside businesses by appealing directly to
individual office workers as consumers, instead of seeking to
appeal to technology decision makers through formal sales.
Only in the past year or so has Google embarked on a
strategy to win over more progressive IT administrators.
Google Apps Team Edition security features remain
rudimentary, but the company is moving rapidly to add powers.
While it currently has little notion of central administrative
control, individual document creators can say who can see any
Nonetheless, Apps still lacks many features for designing,
prioritizing and controlling changes that different users make
in any document.
Content management software programs such as Microsoft
Corp's (MSFT.O) SharePoint offer such features. Google is
working on SharePoint-like features, executives said.
Analysts said Google Apps for teams is a promising start to
an increasingly aggressive Web-based collaboration strategy to
compete against Microsoft in business software. Microsoft has
responded to Google Apps with a similar product called Office
Erica Driver, an analyst with Forrester Research who
studies how next-generation workplaces should be designed, said
team collaboration has been a crucial missing piece from Google
Apps and more must be done.
"Google needs to evolve more of a concept of groups and
some concept of access controls that allows users to check in
and out documents and decide who can read, write or edit them,"
Driver said. "Some users may be working on sensitive documents.
Not everyone in a company can have access to everything."
Google can no longer ignore technical bureaucracies.
"If it is going to appeal within business enterprises,
Google has to play nice with IT," said Rebecca Wettemann, an
analyst with software tracking firm Nucleus Research. "Google
still has to convince companies that they are to be trusted."
Google's Glotzbach said Google Apps Team Edition can be
upgraded to versions that can be controlled by central
administrators. These require organizations to pay small
per-user monthly fees.
Thus Google Apps can be incorporated in an organization's
single sign-on password system or other filtering and security
systems that companies are adopting to guard against rogue
(Editing by Derek Caney)