Google Apps, once a leader, faces growing cloud app rivals

Analysts say it needs to improve its unified communications and enterprise social efforts or risk being left behind

By , IDG News Service |  Enterprise Software

Having native, full-featured apps for ESN and UC isn't a priority for Composites One for now, although the company may want them in the future, Greene said, adding that some employees have started to use the Hangouts feature in Google+. "What third-party UC vendors are selling doesn't appeal to us as being high value right now," Greene said.

The same goes for ESN software providers. "We're not currently looking at the 'Facebook for the enterprise' use case," he said.

Greene is tracking developments in the UC and ESN market, and doesn't mind talking to vendors and systems integrators about them. But plugging in third-party tools would add IT complexity.

Now, Composites One handles its collaboration and communication tasks via Google Apps in a simple, standardized way, which is part of the motivation for going to the cloud in the first place, he said.

"That lets us spend more time on our customized enterprise systems that are specific to our wholesale distribution operations," he said. Those more complex systems automate e-commerce, logistics and other operations.

"We want to spend as little time as possible administering ... the day-to-day utility of communicating," Greene said.

Google has plans to push into the enterprise

In answers provided via email, a Google spokesman said that Google has concrete plans to release a version of Google+ for the workplace use that's fully integrated with Google Apps, fully manageable from the suite's IT console and included in its service-level agreement.

As for UC, the new Hangouts in Google+ will offer a marked improvement over what's available today in Google Apps with better, more unified capabilities across the board.

"One of our primary goals with Hangouts is to unify communications across devices, platforms and people. This is especially true for a business environment, where easier communication can help you be more productive," the spokesman said.

"You shouldn't have to think about what tool you need to communicate with someone, or what device or operating system the person you want to contact is using, or what happens when a text conversation needs to quickly evolve into a video call," he added.

Asked whether Google sees Gmail as still the main attraction in Apps, the spokesman called Gmail "certainly a strong draw" but added that the other suite components are also gaining ground among customers.

Google to speed up Apps improvements

That's all the more reason for Google to accelerate Apps' improvements in UC and ESN, analysts said.

"Google can provide some UC capabilities but not enough to offer full-featured UC," said analyst Zeus Kerravala from ZK Research. "For that, you need to use another vendor in addition to Google."

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