June 25, 2014, 2:32 PM — Under pressure from Microsoft's Office 365, Google has launched a premium edition of Apps with unlimited cloud storage and extra IT controls, and has also improved the Docs office productivity suite.
Although this new edition is essentially Apps for Business with an extra set of features, Google has branded it differently, shifting the spotlight from "apps" to storage by calling it Drive for Work.
It's an acknowledgement by Google of the red hot popularity of cloud storage and file sharing services for personal and work documents, like its own Drive, which has about 190 million active home and business users, Microsoft's OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, and similar services from Box, Dropbox and others.
"We're in a market that understands the value of cloud storage and its massive adoption, so it's an important thing to call out right now," said Scott Johnston, Google Drive's director of product management.
Drive for Work and the enhancements to Docs are also a needed competitive reaction from Google to the momentum of Office 365, which, despite arriving four years after Apps, has helped Microsoft quickly recover lost ground in the market for cloud email and collaboration suites.
Office 365 and Google Apps offer email, calendaring, storage, IM, Web-based office software and audio/video communications for businesses, schools, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
But Microsoft's suite also offers the option of the full-featured desktop Office apps, recently ported to the iPad, and the Yammer enterprise social networking tool, an element Google Apps lacks.
Office 365 is also viewed as clearly stronger than Apps in some areas, including in unified communications with Lync Online and in intranet-type collaboration with SharePoint Online.
A big attraction for Google Apps has been its price -- $5 per user, per month -- which is lower than most of the fee-based editions of Office 365. (Both companies offer free versions of their suites for certain types of customers.)
For example, the Enterprise E3 version of Office 365 costs $20 per user/month, but it comes with the full-featured Office productivity suite, which each user can install on up to five MacOS or Windows computers and five tablets. It also comes with 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage per user and with Yammer's Enterprise edition.
Drive for Work, which at $10 per user/month costs twice as much as Apps for Business, is clearly an attempt by Google to offer an alternative to the higher-priced -- but more sophisticated -- Office 365 options.