Google announced Google Sites yesterday, a replacement to the relatively dismal Page Creator application. The genesis for Google Sites was JotSpot, a wiki solution that Google purchased 16 months ago. Dan Farber quotes Google as saying, "'This is a key last hole in the Google Apps suite,' Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise told me. 'It is the nucleus for other pieces to fit into for online collaboration.'"
The press reaction has been all over the place:
- CNET: Dan Farber at CNET gave a balanced overview, while noting that it took Google 16 months to come out with it, "which is like 10 years in Web time."
- The New York Times went for the "battle of the titans" theme, blaring the provocative headline, "Google Goes After Another Microsoft Cash Cow." After quoting a Forrester analyst who correctly notes, "'They are targeting a subset of the SharePoint functionality,' he said," the reporter finishes the story with the zing, "Then again, Google Sites will be free." Of course, Microsoft's Office Live Small Business is free as well--but why let the truth to get in the way of a good zinger?
- Dennis Howlett at ZDNet gives it a thumbs down in a blog entry entitled, "Google Sites - spoiled by usability issues," complaining about its slow response time and consumer-oriented gadgets.
While Google Sites is a huge improvement over Page Creator--and Google is saying it's the last missing component--I'm not convinced that this latest incarnation will be enough to get large enterprises to buy Google Apps. Google Apps has been a big success with small and medium size businesses who want to avoid paying for an IT staff for as long as they can. But the Fortune 500 companies I talk to are still nervous about the lack of some nuts and bolts features, such as 24/7 phone support, the inability to administer the system via roles, the rudimentary e-mail distribution list capabilities, and the lack of records management capabilities for documents and spreadsheets. These are non-glitzy requirements, but real requirements nevertheless.
So while Google continues to improve Google Apps from a user interface point-of-view, it hasn't improved the underlying data model--Google Apps still shows its consumer heritage. (E-mail distribution lists that contain other distribution lists have been around for 20 years--yet Google has yet to include that important enterprise feature). While that isn't hurting Google within the SMB space, it is within the larger enterprise space. The vendor race in the collaboration and content space continues.