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Google Looks To Create Enterprise 'Buzz'

When Google launched its Buzz social networking service on Tuesday, it was clearly aimed at providing the best of Twitter and Facebook to Gmail users. But the company also said it intends to target a future release of Buzz at the enterprise.

Google launched Buzz at its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters in an event that was broadcast over YouTube. Buzz is a service centered around the Gmail inbox that automatically follows individuals via their address books. It brings many features of Twitter and Facebook using the inbox as the key entry point.

Horowitz told attendees that Google has been using Buzz internally. "We've found it invaluable. It's changed the way we communicate in the company," he said.

The company was vague about its plans to offer an enterprise edition of Buzz other than to suggest it would be an extension of its Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE).

"Our intention is to launch this as an enterprise product," said Google Vice President Bradley Horowitz. "It will change the way businesses communicate around the world."

Analysts are skeptical that Buzz will make a huge dent in the consumer market, much less the enterprise market. But even if it does take off in the consumer segment, it could face an uphill battle against the forthcoming Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, which will be offered in the upcoming Office 2010 suite.

"Google is already up against a product installed in 90 percent of all enterprises," said Burton Group analyst Guy Creese. "In fact, I see Microsoft's Outlook Social Connector much more in line with what an enterprise is looking for because it gathers information that's much more enterprise-centric."

Horowitz said Buzz will use Gmail, Google Docs and Google Sites in a "more corporate context." But Creese said enterprise adoption of GAPE to date has been small (though Google has announced some major wins, such as the city of Los Angeles late last year).

In addition to bringing together GAPE, Buzz will incorporate other Google services including YouTube, Google Voice and the Google Wave collaboration service (the latter is in beta and has received mixed reviews). By doing so, Google could also be going after SharePoint, according to observers.

Creese said GAPE has the highest potential of gaining traction among SMB users, universities and students. CMS Watch founder Tony Byrne agreed. "If there is potential for Buzz, it is likely among Google's core business clientele of very small organizations and indie consultants," Byrne said in an e-mail.

"Google is developing a habit of throwing different services against the wall to see what sticks, and lately things haven't been sticking -- at least as far as meaningfully improving enterprise information management," Byrne added.  "See, for example, Sidewiki and Wave, both released with major fanfare and then followed by dissipation of interest."

First, Google has to convince Gmail users to embrace Buzz. Jeffrey McManus, CEO of Platform Associates and the developer of Aprover.com, as well as a Gmail user, was already looking to shut off Buzz from day one.

"Buzz brings very little that's new to the table," McManus said. "My hope is that Google doesn't plan on rolling out this product to their Apps customers in the same way they did with their Gmail users. Tossing a new, superfluous social attention-grab right next to the inbox you use for work and then making it very unintuitive to shut off is something I'd call borderline 'evil.'"

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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