Google may be getting even more serious about business.
The company is in talks with Hewlett-Packard about expanding the Internet giant's Google Now voice recognition software to be able to search through corporate data, according to a report published Wednesday by The Information (subscription needed).
The partnership would allow Google Now --- which serves as a "virtual assistant" that lets users ask it about restaurants, driving directions or sports scores -- to do the same thing with company data. For example, an enterprise user on a device running Android, Google's mobile operating system, would be able to ask the software about financial information or inventory data. HP would be valuable to Google in this case because of its wealth of relationships with corporate customers.
Neither Google nor HP immediately returned a request for comment.
The move would be an attempt to encroach on Apple's popularity among business customers. Apple last month struck a deal with IBM in which the two companies would collaborate on enterprise apps for iPhones and iPads. Also part of the deal, IBM's cloud services will be optimized for Apple's iOS mobile operating system, and IBM's 100,000 consultants will push Apple products with corporate clients.
Google has stepped up its courting of business customers in recent years. The company says Google Apps for Business, a suite of software that includes enterprise versions of services like Gmail and Docs, is used by more than 5 million businesses. Google does not break down how much revenue is generated from corporate accounts. Google's "other revenue," where the enterprise business is accounted for, rose 10 percent last quarter to $1.6 billion, but that figure includes more popular businesses like the Google Play store.
The report says discussion between Google and HP began a year ago, but that Google has been "noncommittal" about such a partnership. HP had at one point also desired to team up with Google on a Nexus phone -- part of Google's own line of consumer electronics devices -- geared specifically toward business customers, according to the report. Andy Rubin, Android's co-founder, who ran the division at the time, reportedly was not sold on the idea. Google senior vice president Sundar Pachai has since taken the reigns.
HP has meanwhile been developing a mobile search service nicknamed "Enterprise Siri," a reference to Apple's digital assistant. According to the report, HP had been in talks with Apple over an enterprise version of Siri, though those discussions fell apart when Apple partnered with IBM. Apple did not return a request for comment.
If the partnership between Google and HP is forged, this would be just the latest example of Google modifying a consumer service for the enterprise. Aside from apps like Gmail and Docs that have long been part of the enterprise suite, Google last month said it was unbundling its Hangouts video chatting service from its Google+ social network, so enterprise customers could use it as well.