Google taps Capgemini to bring big business to Apps

The two companies announce a partnership that aims to crack into large corporations with the search giant's online Google Apps.

Global consulting firm Capgemini believes that GoogleApps--Google's online alternative to Microsoft Office--appeals to more than college students and small businesses.

The two companies on Monday announced a partnership under which Capgemini will offer desktop support and installation services to large corporations that use Google Apps Premier Edition.

Google Apps--which includes Web-based Gmail, a calendar, and document editor--can fill a role in large corporations even though the product suite is used mainly by individuals and small businesses, according to Capgemini executives.

These Web-based applications make sense for employees who typically don't have their own PCs, such as factory line or retail workers, where the cost of a PC and Microsoft Office is hard to justify, said Steve Jones, head of SOA (services-oriented architecture) at Capgemini.

The Google suite also makes sense for people collaborating over the Internet with business partners, he added.

Capgemini will provide support to corporations and customize Google Apps to fit a company's business processes.

For Google, the arrangement helps Google Apps' entry into large corporations, which tend to be conservative about new technology adoption.

A report published last month by research firm the Burton Group argued that corporations that use Google Apps Premier Edition are taking risks, even though the product is relatively inexpensive at $50 per user per year.

Most corporations are not experienced in getting productivity applications delivered over the Web from Google, which is primarily a consumer company. The applications themselves lack features that Microsoft Office has, such as the ability to access documents based on an employee's role, the report noted.

"While the $50 per user per year price point is attractive, enterprises are not getting a lot for their money," wrote Burton Group analyst Guy Creese.

"While Google's entrance is adding momentum to using software as a service (SaaS) for communication, collaboration, and content management, it's unclear at this point whether Google will be able to capitalize on the trends that it's accelerating," he added.

Capgemini's Jones said that Capgemini decided to offer a Google Apps service in part because employees often use the applications without the approval of corporate technology departments, which can lead to problems managing important company documents.

"If companies don't proactively control this, then they will lose control. This is going to happen no matter what. The question is whether you enable it or not," he said.

Microsoft issued a response to the announcement, arguing that enterprise customers have voted with their wallets in consistently buying Microsoft Office because of its rich features and reliability.

"Our long history in meeting the complex needs of enterprise customers, a partner ecosystem that has grown 43 percent on the Office platform since last year and our current and future investments in the software plus services arena will deliver even more flexibility to customers," the Microsoft statement read.

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