Just like rogue employees in the 1990s forced instant messaging into corporations, the new Google Apps Team Edition being launched on Thursday offers a way for workers to slip a hosted apps service into the enterprise.
This could help Google in its efforts to lure more people off desktop applications sold by Microsoft and onto the mostly free Web-based apps Google offers.
Google Apps Team Edition is a free service that lets people within the same e-mail domain collaborate easily with Google Apps, a package that includes Docs, Calendar, Talk, and Start Page.
Unlike IM applications, which open communication to anyone on the Web using a compatible IM app, Google Apps Team Edition lets you share with people only in your same organization.
Google's stand-alone hosted apps for consumers haven't really made a splash in the corporate world, largely because of the security threats posed by how easy they make it to share sensitive work data with people outside the company.
So Google created Google Apps, a free Standard Edition and a Premier Edition that has a fee. These editions give an administrator control over how the apps are used, allowing for services to be disabled, new services like Gmail to be added, and integration with apps for things like single sign-on. Google offers security and government regulation compliance services for those editions 9789901 through its Postini acquisition.
"People are already using the consumer (hosted Google) apps in the workplace, like they did IM a decade ago," said Jeremy Milo, senior marketing manager for Google Apps. "We're trying to bring more security by introducing the notion of domain awareness."
The Team Edition offers a compromise for workers who want to use the apps in a company that isn't already using Google Apps or if the company lacks an IT administrator. An administrator can always step in and switch from Team Edition to Standard or Premier if they want. And a new domain can be acquired through the Standard Edition for $10 for those who need a uniform e-mail domain.
With Team Edition anyone can open an account and start using the apps with anyone within the organization. For instance, a group working on a team project could use Google Apps Team Edition and be able to access the shared documents from any computer over the Internet.
"Google Apps Team Edition is another on ramp" to Web-hosted apps, Milo said. "They are one more way for businesses to get comfortable with computing in the cloud and anywhere, any time access to critical information."