Revamped Google for Work puts new spin on courting businesses

Ten years after the search giant started eyeing business customers, it's doing some rebranding to catch the eye of people bringing their devices to work.

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With Google for Work, the tech giant is bringing its enterprise efforts up to date. Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Enterprise, the search giant's division focused on business customers, is getting a title change, effective immediately.

The company on Tuesday announced a new name for the 10-year-old division: Google for Work.

The enterprise version of each of Google's services will get a rebranding too, with a "for Work" tag added to the end. For example email will be called "Gmail for Work" and Google's cloud storage service will be "Drive for Work."

Amit Singh, president of Google's enterprise division, said the name change was spurred by the change in landscape for bringing software to corporate customers. "The word 'enterprise' starts to mean different things," said Singh, during a press event at the company's offices here. "Many things that are associated with 'enterprise' are not what we do. Over time that dissonance has gotten bigger."

He cites things like software sitting on shelves as one of the images he'd like to get away from. The company also said that when most people think of enterprise, they automatically think of giant companies. Google wanted to stress that its business services work for companies of all sizes.

The move comes as consumer tech companies try more aggressively to deepen their enterprise roots. Firms like Google and Apple are also trying to take advantage of consumers taking their own smartphones and tablets to work, a trend the industry calls "BYOD," or "bring your own device."

Apple in July 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 been rumored to be exploring similar ties with Hewlett-Packard, which would expand the search giant's Google Now voice recognition software to be able to search through corporate data, like financial or inventory information. HP would be valuable to Google in this case because of its wealth of relationships with corporate customers.

The company says its suite of software, which includes enterprise versions of services like Gmail and Docs, is used by more than 5 million businesses. On Tuesday, Singh said 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies are paying, active clients, though he declined to break down which enterprise services have gained most traction with the companies.

Google also does not break down how much revenue is generated from corporate accounts. Overall, the company made almost $16 billion in sales last quarter. Google's "other revenue," where the enterprise business is accounted for, rose 10 percent to $1.6 billion, but that figure also includes more popular businesses like the Google Play store.

The company has also tailored its other consumer services to make them available for business customers. 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.

The enterprise team has grown from 25 people to having "thousands" of workers, but Rajen Sheth, an enterprise product manager director, remembers early on when Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was not quite convinced. In 2004, about a month after Sheth joined the team, he presented an idea for an enterprise version of Gmail to Schmidt, along with Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Halfway into Sheth's first slide, Schmidt said it wasn't going to work.

"Look, I know this market. I tried to do this at Novell," Sheth recalled Schmidt saying, referring to the software company Schmidt used to run. "What you're doing is very incremental."

The team went back and changed its plan, going forward with a more cloud-based approach, and Schmidt approved the project, Sheth said.

Ten years later, Schmidt is definitely on board. In a blog post Tuesday, he wrote, "Working from a computer, tablet or phone is no longer just a trend -- it's a reality."

 

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