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Here we go again. Google announced a new product, Google Buzz, and the media is all agog about it:
- Miguel Helft and Brad Stone, "With Buzz, Google Plunges Into Social Networking," The New York Times, February 9, 2010.
- Ashley Vance, "Google Gets More Social with Buzz," Bits Blog, The New York Times, February 9, 2010.
- Jessica Vascellaro, "Google Adds 'Buzz' to Gmail," The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2010.
- Tony Bradley, "Can Google Generate Buzz in the Enterprise?" PC World, February 9, 2010.
Google Buzz is a service that allows users to share updates, photos, and videos within the Gmail e-mail interface. As such, it's a competitor to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
So while the media at large is blogging and writing about what this means for Facebook and Twitter, how about the bread-and-butter enterprise? What does it mean for an enterprise, trying to keep its e-mail up and make its information workers more productive? Not much.
First of all, the enterprise would need to switch to Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE)--and very few large enterprises have done so. Some are thinking about it, but there's a big difference between thinking about it and doing it.
Second, Google Buzz isn't available on GAPE. In typical Google-speak, Google is refusing to say when it will turn up in GAPE, other than saying it will be "soon." (That certainly helps an enterprise plan [sarcasm intended]).
Third, Google has linked Buzz to largely consumer-oriented sites, such as YouTube and Flickr. Does an enterprise really want to have its employees conversing with/looking at those sites? As a general rule, I would argue no. The enterprise conversation universe should be centered within the company itself--what are other employees and and divisions doing and thinking? This isn't always true--a Marketing Communications Specialist very much wants to watch and participate in external conversations--but that's the exception, rather than the rule. Enterprises looking for a more social software orientation while keeping an enterprise focus should look at the forthcoming Microsoft Outlook Social Connector rather than Google Buzz.
However, I'm not convinced Google Buzz will be a total bust for organizations. In certain contexts, it may be quite useful. For example:
- Colleges and universities: Google Apps Education Edition has done well at some universities (being free for students has helped), and Google Buzz adds functionality for those who already use Gmail. Within universities, that's usually students, who like the web orientation of Gmail and have disdain for Outlook (it's their parents' e-mail system). Faculty and staff, however, typically stick with Outlook, and probably won't be that interested in the Google Buzz features.
- High tech startups: A lot of high tech startups use Gmail or GAPE. It's cheap and it keeps them from having to build their own internal IT infrastructure. Furthermore, using Gmail is a style thing--it proves you're cool and cutting edge. Google Buzz adds to the functionality of Gmail, and keeps users from having to bop out to Facebook and Twitter to see what's going on.