Google will add a PowerPoint competitor to its Google Apps line-up by year-end, and possibly could add other applications to that suite.
These include video, note-taking, blogging and group-discussion applications. Google is also aiming to establish parity between the offline and online capabilities of its productivity suite, said Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management in Google's enterprise division.
Google last week introduced a set of APIs as part of a browser extension called Google Gears that will let web-based applications work in disconnected mode.
"Presentation is a feature of Google Documents, it's not as much building a separate presentation application," Glotzbach said. "We are building this ability to present from a document."
Currently, the most popular presentation application among corporate users is Microsoft PowerPoint (see our PowerPoint 2007 review).
Google announced in April it was working on a presentation component for its Google Apps suite suite of Office-like applications that include email, a document editor, spreadsheet and other collaboration tools. A premier edition targets corporate users and is viewed as an alternative to Microsoft Office, even though the Google package offers nowhere near the feature set of Office.
"Does [presentation] round out our suite? I think it is a great component to add in, and I think there are probably others," Glotzbach said. "Every day we get asked about the other Google properties. What about YouTube? What about Google Notebook? What about Blogger? What about Google Groups? From my view, those are all candidate applications that probably would have a strong following if they were part of the Google Apps offering. When we get to those, and if we get to those, remains to be seen."
Google Apps Premier Edition includes Gmail with 10GB of storage, Goggle Docs & Spreadsheets, integrated instant messaging and search tools, Google Talk for IM and VoIP services, support for Gmail on BlackBerry mobile devices, Google Calendar, a set of APIs and partner technologies to integrate with existing enterprise applications, and 24/7 phone support. The suite is priced at $50 ($25) per user.
Google also includes security options via partner Sxip that let companies tie it into their existing corporate directories and extend single sign-on to Google's hosted application services.
Glotzbach said the goal is to extend that package of services, and the newest effort to add offline support is a major milestone.
"Candidly, up until a few weeks ago offline was a key missing piece," Glotzbach said. "We got lots of questions about it from larger enterprises that are used to Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook."
Those two applications let users replicate data to their desktops, unplug from the network and work with applications as if they are online. Once reconnected with the network, work can be synchronized with network data stores.
Glotzbach said Google already offers some basic offline capabilities with its support for POP3 in Gmail and the iCal protocol in Google Calendar. Offline capability across the platform, however, may take some time.
Google Gears went into beta two weeks ago. It comprises three APIs that provide a local server on the client, local data storage and a background synchronisation capability.
The company is letting developers play with the APIs, and Google has created a sample application that works with Google Reader, its syndication software.
"We are definitely in the trial-and-error stage, but we are fairly confident it meets the needs of Google applications," said Linus Upson, engineering director for Google Gears. "But there are a lot of smart developers out there, and we want to leverage their help and see what they are doing."
Google said the focus with Google Apps is not to attack Microsoft or IBM with desktop applications, but to strengthen its own service offerings.
"I don't wake up every morning and think, how do I beat Microsoft and IBM," Glotzbach said. "Our goal is, how can we enable communication and collaboration in a new and more efficient and more effective way? The bigger interest is software-as-a-service."