Discussions not enough for Google to expand in enterprise space

By Dawinderpal Sahota
17 Mar 2011 View Comments

The launch of the Discussions feature in Google Docs sees Google going after enterprise users in earnest.

However, is it enough to convince users to switch from their current office software provider? Analysts don't think so.

Further reading

The Discussions feature improves collaboration by adding ownership and editing rights to individual comments.

"This new feature will increase productivity among business users because it tackles how they work," Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google Enterprise, declared at a press briefing yesterday.

He added that Google's 100 per cent web approach means the firm is able to facilitate discussion and collaboration that cannot be achieved in a desktop environment.

The new feature also allows users to translate discussions in real time as it has integrated Google's Translate function.

Users can also easily move their discussion to email as Google has built intuitive email integration into Discussions.

The feature will be made available over the next few days to all users with personal Google Accounts as well as to Google Apps customers on the Rapid Release track.

But according to analysts, this will not be a killer app for Google in the enterprise space.

"It's a neat little capability but I am not sure it's going to meet many objectives that CIOs have," said Jeff Mann, vice president of research at Gartner.

He added that it was already pretty "cool" that users could have multiple people editing a document at the same time and this is an evolution on the traditional end-user-focused capability.

However, he is not sure that Google Discussions offers the type of collaboration that is desired: "I hear that people move away from Google because they want to be able to create structured or designed ways of collaborating. They may have a project team that wants defined workflows, or structure the way they do approvals on documents; but with Discussions, there is little to support structured collaboration."

TJ Keitt, analyst at Forrester Research, added that the decision to switch from Office to Google Docs will depend upon whether or not the business can tolerate the technical limitations of Google's browser-based productivity tools.

He added that Microsoft's impending release of Office 365 will pose a threat to Google's efforts in the enterprise market.

"Office 365 is still in beta, so the impact on Google will not be immediate. But once it gets going, Office 365 probably won't make life easy for Google.

"Microsoft is a trusted name in email and productivity tools and if they can find the right price points for the small and mid-markets, they should be able to capture a good portion of the market," he said.

He added that it is important to remember that price is key and that is typically why businesses look to Google.

"It's priced at an ultra-competitive level," added Keitt.

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