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Yesterday, Google announced Google Apps Sync for Outlook, which allows enterprises to keep the Outlook client on the front end while replacing Microsoft Exchange on the backend. From an organizational point-of-view, this allows IT to save money (usually) on e-mail administration without disrupting end-user life (since most companies use Outlook on the desktop).
Some comments, stories on the announcement:
- Google Blog: "Use Microsoft Outlook with Google Apps for email, contacts, and calendar"
- CNet: "Google plots Exchange escape with Outlook plug-in"
- TechCrunch: "Google Takes Another Swipe at Microsoft. Enterprise Apps Now Sync with Outlook."
- VentureBeat: "Google Apps syncs with Outlook--a cure for cloud computing angst"
For those paying attention to this market (or reading Burton Group reports), this announcement is not a huge surprise. Actually, the surprise is more that it took Google this long--2.3 years since announcing Google Apps--to figure out that it needed to offer this functionality. (Cisco's recognition that it needed to support Outlook as a client for SaaS e-mail was the driver behind its acquisition of PostPath last year.) In short, this software frontend/SaaS-backend architecture is required to penetrate this market. As we noted last year in the Software as a Service Enterprise E-Mail: Get Ready to Go Beyond the Grind report:
This solution will undoubtedly help Google sign up more enterprises for Google Apps than it has in the past. However, enterprises that do their homework will still find some gotchas. For example:
- Outlook Tasks and Notes aren't supported: According to the Google blog post, it looks like Outlook functionality is still not fully supported--e-mail, calendar, and contacts will sync, but Tasks and Notes aren't mentioned. For workers wedded to using every feature in Outlook, the Google solution is still insufficient. (Of course, for many workers, supporting only e-mail, calendar, and contacts is just fine).
- The cost of SaaS e-mail varies widely, depending on requirements: Based on some consulting work Burton Group has done, while straight vanilla SaaS e-mail implementations are price competitive, the prices start to skyrocket if the enterprise has customized its e-mail solution. For example, if it uses content filtering to intercept pornography or company secrets, uses special e-mail templates, or has built applications that use e-mail for workflow, then the costs of integrating those capabilities with SaaS e-mail often make the SaaS solution more expensive than the current cost of running e-mail in-house.
To sum up, the availability of Google Apps Sync for Outlook is good for enterprises--it gives them yet another option to consider when looking to decrease the burden of running enterprise e-mail. Depending on an enterprise's needs, it may fit the bill--or it may not.
Note: Cross-posted on the Collaboration and Content blog