There are three types of products Google CEO Larry Page prioritizes above all others, and Google Apps for Business isn't one of them.
In Google's quarterly earnings call, Page said he thinks of Google's products in three categories: Advertisements, consumer products and new products such as Google+.
With Microsoft arguing that the Google Apps suite of Gmail, Docs and Calendar is unsuitable for business use, Page's comments aren't likely to inspire confidence in Google's commitment to enterprise IT customers.
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Page, the Google co-founder, recently assumed the CEO role from Eric Schmidt, who has an enterprise background as CEO of Novell and CTO of Sun Microsystems. At the time of the CEO shift, Network World raised the question of whether Page might be less devoted to Google's enterprise efforts than Schmidt. Analysts from Gartner said there is no reason to think Google will pull the plug on Apps, but advised Page to make public statements assuring enterprise customers that they are one of his priorities.
That type of statement didn't occur in yesterday's earnings call, according to a transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.
"I think about our products in three separate categories," Page said. "First, there is Search in our Ads products, the core driver of revenue for the company. And Nikesh and Susan are going to talk more about Ads later in the call. Next, we have products that are employing high consumer success: YouTube, Android and Chrome. We are investing in these in order to optimize their long-term success. Then we have our new products, Google+ in commerce and local. We are investing in them to drive innovation and adoption."
Page mentioned Gmail and Calendar in another comment, but not in a reference to the enterprise. Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora discussed Google Apps for Business.
"Another leg of our revenues is the Enterprise Business," Arora said. "We've seen great results in enterprise as well, in particular apps for business continues to grow as organizations move to the cloud. We've had key wins at Intercontinental Hotels [and the] State of Wyoming. In addition to that, some small simple changes in our product side have allowed us to tremendously accelerate Google Apps for small businesses."
Despite Google's breadth of products, the vast majority of its revenue comes from advertising. But actions speak louder than words, and it would be inaccurate to say that Google has not invested in enterprise computing. After Page took over as CEO, Google launched its line of Chromebook PCs, with subscription deals offered to businesses willing to switch away from Windows. Google co-founder Sergey Brin talked up the launch at the Google I/O conference, saying Windows is "torturing users."
Still, questions remain about Google's devotion to the enterprise. Customers have been frustrated with the limited support and long fix times for products like Calendar, and Google still makes 24/7 phone support available only for "system critical event emergencies." Google enterprise chief Dave Girouard promised in May that Google will eventually offer 24/7 phone support for all Apps issues, but did not say when.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has launched a cloud service to compete against Google Apps, known as Office 365, which offers Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Office Web Apps for prices starting at $6 per user per month, compared to $5 for the Google suite.
Google has loudly touted enterprise and government wins for Google Apps, so the search company certainly will not give up the battle for business customers, of which it has more than 3 million. Google certainly has advantages: It is cheaper than Office 365 and Docs is more robust than Office Web Apps, with better support for mobile devices. But with Microsoft, businesses at least know they, and not consumers and advertisers, are the vendor's top focus.
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