Thursday, February 28, 2008

Google gets into Web site building biz - Boston.com [plus some impressions/projections]

Yet more press on Google Sites -- somebody at Google deserves a PR gold star; from what I've seen so far today, for example, there are more Google Sites stories than stories about the Microsoft (Windows Server 2008/Visual Studio 2008/SQL Server 2008) launch event yesterday

With only a few clicks, just about anyone will be able to quickly set up and update a Web site featuring a wide array of material, including pictures, calendars and video from Google Inc.'s YouTube subsidiary, said Dave Girouard, general manager of the division overseeing the new application.

"We are literally adding an edit button to the Web," Girouard said.

A few quick impressions:

1. I was intrigued with JotSpot before Google acquired and took it dark for ~16 months -- the idea of using "the wiki way" with site design elements (such as forms/page templates and views) is empowering (e.g., see this report, if you're a Burton Group Collaboration and Content Strategies service customer)

2. I'm surprised Google is apparently striving to not use the w-word (wiki) in conjunction with Google Sites, and look forward to exploring Google Sites to see if any of the empowering JotSpot wiki-centric features have been eliminated

3. The timing of the Google Sites press blitz, coming a few days before Microsoft's annual SharePoint Conference, along with the press spin about Google Sites competing with SharePoint, warrants another PR gold star.

4. Google Sites, assuming it's reasonably robust, intuitive, and feature-rich, will significantly change the trajectory of Google Apps, making it applicable to a much wider range of collaboration and content management scenarios. I suspect this will be a bigger immediate-term competitive challenge for vendors other than Microsoft, e.g., smaller SaaS vendors specializing in basic site/list/apps/etc. as services, but the press will probably focus on the SharePoint competitive dimension, since it's a more compelling story line to speculate about the potential for a major Microsoft cashectomy (on SharePoint and Office). Note that SharePoint isn't just for enterprises anymore, as it's also the foundation for Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business, and part of Microsoft's expanding "software + services" Microsoft Online offering; I expect Google will attempt to compete with all but the on-premises (traditional software product) SharePoint customer scenarios.

5. The competitive landscape in this context is going to evolve very rapidly -- e.g., watch for more updates in this context next week, from the Microsoft SharePoint and MIX events.

6. On a related note, I'm starting to seriously wonder if robust off-line/disconnected usage scenarios, best exemplified today by IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Groove, are fading considerations in the post-90s. It'll be interesting to see if Google gets away with doing a Google Gears hand-wave on Google Sites, for users who need off-line support. Perhaps vendors such as Colligo, specializing in taking SharePoint apps and content off-line, will also find market opportunities with Google Sites.

Google gets into Web site building biz - Boston.com

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