Google finally announced pricing for it’s Google Apps bundle today under the banner of “Google Apps Premier Edition.” Check out this nice comparison between the free and $50/seat/year options. InfoWorld has a summary with existing user numbers.
They offer “3 nines” (99.9%) uptime. I like the playful realisticness of this: why have 5, 6, or whatever nines when you know any nines are hand-waving anyways, in this context at least? In this case, that $50 will be all about SaaSy customer service anyhow.
As one snarky commenter on TechDirt pointed out, that’s an hour of downtime every six weeks (I didn’t check that math). The further comment being: good luck getting better than that from most software.
My question, though, is always, “well, what happens when it’s only 99%? Do you get your money back? Would getting your money back even matter compared to any damage or loss done?” In the world of finance, this is a completely different discussion, but in email and Office apps, I don’t think the whole however many 9’s discussion really makes sense.
It’s like hearing US government budget numbers. What’s 2.6 trillion dollars spending vs. 2.34 dollars spending? How do I even think about and judge numbers that big?
As I IM’ed to mray this morning when he sent the link to me, I’m suspicious of how well Google with do customer service. I’m fully prepared to be shocked at how good they are at it, but there’s a certain level of Google hubris I expect from them on any offering. The big question would be: customer service at volume is typically a disparate skill set from herding geniuses; what’d you do to make sure it’ll work? Points if the answer is: “the premise of your question is flawed” I’d smile wide as a Cheshire and get another cup of coffee.
And, yes, Joel’s recent piece on customer service seemingly fits well here. Scaling up those tips to 100,000’s of users (millions if that should happen), or even thousands of users might be drastically different. We’ll see.
From my cat-bird seat of enterprise software, the user provisioning and SSO is one of the most interesting aspects. It looks like Sxip is providing an appliance to tunnel identity through the firewall. I have a post in the hopper asking how enterprise vendors are taking the Internet and Web into account, and this is a prime example of what I’m talking about.
For example, how long will it be before customers go to our friends at Sun Identity and ask them “what’s your Google Apps integration story?” Avaya seems to be working out something as well.
The other hitch on the enterprise-side is governance, compliance, and audit concerns: SOX, HIPPA, home-brew work-flows, and whatever else you can drum out of the high grass. I haven’t checked out the API’s, but it be great if there was enough functionality for partners to come along and solve all the FUD that could be had.
Finally, I think we can all agree that any pussy-footing around trying to take out large chunks of Microsoft’s revenue is simply crap. Of course the success of Google Apps would hurt Microsoft. Now, how fast that happens (over years instead of months) and what Microsoft and others do to hedge it (reprise, partner, Live, FUD the crap out of Google) is a whole ‘nuther story. But, if only for taking out Exchange, Outlook, and possibly SharePoint (which is limiting the possible fronts), Google Apps is a clear attack on MS-land.
On a more conservative note, there are still people using WordPerfect 5.1 for all their damn ^K combos. Word processors have been an incredibly generational piece of software, and I’m not sure that’s going to change. That means that The Kids may take to Google Apps and other Enterprise 2.0 applications quickly, but I suspect we’ll have to wait for a rash of retirement parties before there’s any chance of seeing any sort of exodus from Word and, even more so, Excel. See my comments on cultural wet-ware in the context of Lotus Connections for more discussion along these lines.
Oh, and it could turn out that doing Office tasks on the web just sucks, no matter what. Don’t ever forget that.
The key to Google’s success to changing the nature of what the mass-audience for email and office want and expect before Microsoft or anyone else can react and regroup. While Google has had a rocky time being an all-around innovation factory of late, I have a feeling they could muster up an iPod of Office Suites move. That is, there were numerous MP3 players out and available when the iPod came out. But, the iPod reinvented not only the experience of a portable digital music player, but rapidly changed what the mass-market’s expectations were for MP3 players.
For wide success, Google Apps will need the same thing effect. They did a lot with GMail as far as showing how email could not only be different, but better. My socks haven’t been blown off by any document or spreadsheet applications I’ve seen because they’ve just replicated the same old ideas, but in a browser. Now, finally pulling in the good parts of a wiki and the document-centric thinking of a word processor, and making the result a real web application that “works with” the web rather than just “on” it might be something. Hint: it has to do with forgetting about firewalls and corporate/org barriers to collaboration, and the marketing and cultural change to prevent people from freaking out.
Who knows? Hopefully there’s more good ideas to come. It’ll be less exciting otherwise ;>
(As a general to do item, I’m leaving out any discussion of file formats. There’s probably a long commentary to be had there, esp. once wikis get involved.)
Disclaimer: Microsoft, though not the Office division, is a client. As is IBM.