While the veritable inferno of interest Google’s social network offering Google+ sparked in its first few weeks of existence late last year has clearly eased to a slow burn, the search engine giant is hoping the enterprise sector can rekindle those embers of user interest.
Like Gmail and other popular Google Apps before it, the company has announced it will make its Google+ social networking platform fully available to enterprise customers, adding it to its already popular suite of programs. To that end, yesterday Google also announced several new social networking features aimed specifically at spurring adoption in the business world, including restricted sharing options, video meeting integrated with the rest of the Google Apps suite, and additional administrative controls.
As Google has done with almost all of its previous Google Apps (most notably its Gmail service), the company is hoping that enterprise adoption will reverse engineer (for lack of a better term) consumer interest, offering us all a little consistency in our scattered digital lives.
I have to say, there are days I love Google and days I think they might be the worst company on the planet (aside from Foxconn and Apple of course), as stories of brilliant innovation are often mixed with stories of profound negligence and evil. But that said, there’s no question that Google has a handle on how to foster software adoption in today’s modern world, as once again the search engine has turned to the enterprise world to help establish Google dominance, this time in the social networking sector.
While many may not remember the humble beginnings of Google’s now wildly successful Gmail service, it came onto the scene at the height of the free email craze, with platforms like Hotmail dominating the scene. The problem for those free email services, however, was they were notoriously unsecure, a problem for the enterprise sector but not really for the end users themselves. So enter Gmail, a secure email service targeted to businesses, and quickly we saw a reverse engineering of user interest, with those who used Gmail at work turning to it for their personal email accounts.
So it should come as no surprise to hear Google’s Vice President of Enterprise Amit Singh say, “Google+ is the next big thing for the enterprise…We are going to do the same thing with Google+ that we’ve done with Gmail, and other consumer-facing apps so that Google+ can be adopted in more of enterprise setting.”
To that end, Google has announced that Google+ is now in “full preview” mode, with all current Google Apps customers getting free trial access to the new social collaboration platform until the end of 2013. While the key word here is ‘free’, meaning that eventually Google plans to charge businesses for Google+ service, given the success of Gmail and other Google Apps products in the enterprise sector, should businesses find value it Google+ it really won’t be a hard sell.
In a brief look at the new features Google has announced, it seems that several of them aren’t enterprise specific at all, as the restricted sharing option—that allows messages to be tagged as restricted to the office for instance—and the integration of the company’s video meetings service with the rest of the Google Apps suite is available on the free consumer version as well, although the new administrative controls will be a godsend for IT departments, as it will allow effective management and control of the social network.
In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of 2013 Google was able to grow its Google+ brand into a serious competitor with Facebook, given that it offers users an ever-growing suite of integrated programs that meet all of one’s digital needs, not just the social networking side of things.