Today, Google will be rolling out a new software bundle called “Google Apps for Your Domain“. It’s basically Google’s version of Microsoft Office – and using it is free, as it’s based on an advertising supported business model. But don’t get excited too soon – at the moment, Google Apps for Your Domain only includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google’s instant messenger Google Talk and Google’s web design tool Google Page Creator.
Missing are crucial business software programs for word processing and spreadsheets. Google recently bought a word processing tool called Writely, which it plans to include before the end of this year, just like it plans to include Google Spreadsheets. Only then will you be able to really compare Google Apps for Your Domain with a software suite like Microsoft Office.
But what are the pros and cons of Google Apps for Your Domain if you look at the larger picture and consider what it will become in the future?
The Good Points of Google Office:
- It’s a free, ad revenue supported product bundle. This will certainly appeal to cost-conscious small businesses.
- All the services are based around a domain. You can receive emails to email@example.com through Gmail and also add company branding to your calendar and Gmail accounts.
- Google Office is strong on collaborative features which will come into their own when word processing and spreadsheets are added to the bundle. Microsoft has been slow to add any collaborative features to MS Office, but will feature them with the new release of Microsoft Office 2007.
- Once word processing and spreadsheets are added, it might actually become a serious alternative to MS Office (as long as you’re not interested in creating presentations or using database applications).
The Bad Points of Google Office:
- In its current form, neither a word processing nor a spreadsheet application is included in the Google Office Suite – so it is definitely underwhelming for small businesses at the moment.
- You can’t use any of the applications when you are not online.
- Google Apps for Your Domain is centered around a domain name, but Google doesn’t offer domain registration and the instructions of how to get it set up with a domain registered at various registrars may be confusing.
- There are privacy and security concerns. All your data will be stored on Google’s servers, which may make the data vulnerable to security breaches, and opens the question of how Google will use any of the stored data.
In summary, Google Apps for Your Domain is currently too limited to be of great use to small businesses. According to Google, this will change soon with the addition of spreadsheets and word processing – and then Microsoft really will have a competitor on their hands whom they’ll need to watch closely.