How is Google Tackling the Enterprise?

Google – We’re  Not Just Web Searches. That’s the message that Google wants to get out to the Enterprise.

What else are they doing?

We all know that Google has been synonymous with individual Search, to the point that to Google has become a common verb. More recently, however, Google has both been expending considerable resources to expand their range of offerings to enterprises, and by opening up their applications and data bases for use by others. In providing Open APIs, toolkits, and other tools that allow clever corporate developers to more rapidly develop unique and valuable proprietary applications that leverage these massive data bases and service offerings, enterprises can combine them with their own proprietary knowledge bases, thereby substantially reducing both time to market and the expense of maintaining in-house databases of public information.

Many of Google’s tools for the enterprise have been collected together in a section of Google’s Webiste called Google Enterprise. Others are stiff scattered all over their website.

Some of their offerings we will discuss in detail in upcoming posts, but you can learn more about them right now, including:

It’s likely that Google Apps, (including Google Talk), and Android (Google’s Cell phone technology) and YouTube will be enhanced considerably over the next year, especially with the Enterprise in mind. Already, Google Apps has been integrated with Salesforce.com.

In the aggregate, Google has made good on its claim, “Google -we not just Search,” but the GoogleGazer believes that what we see now is merely the tip of the iceberg of what’s in the works, and most likely, the best is yet to come, as Google is aiming, like Microsoft before it, to go after the enterprise, because, as Willie Sutton said, “that’s where the money is.”

Google Takes on the Enterprise, Seeks to Avoid IBM’s and Microsoft’s Pitfalls

Remember back when?

Redmond’s mantra [unuttered publicly] of “a chicken in every pot, and Windows on every desktop” seemed an elusive, if not laughable goal less than twenty years ago. IBM was firmly and seemingly unassailably entrenched in the enterprise.

When Microsoft first began to appear on the information technology horizon, it appealed to the individual computer user. Windows was pushed as a fun personal productivity tool. And though it was never spoken of, if you had a Windows PC on your desktop, you could sneak in a game of Solitaire when no one was looking. Back then, the “real work” of computing was done either on terminals hard-wired to mainframes, or in a window on a PC running a terminal emulation program. Windows was used at work primarily for prestige, for word processing, for spreadsheets, and for terminal emulation.

Windows was utterly reviled by corporate IT departments, desperate to hang on to the closed environment they had thrived in for years, and where they and only they had the absolute lock on what users could access from the desktop. Feeling very threatened by all the “islands of automation” that began to spring up everywhere, IT fought back. Windows was initially banned from many corporate desktops as “too open” and as a security risk. Microsoft’s development tools, such as Visual Basic, were derided as toys (real developers wrote in C) and colorful graphical user interfaces were seen as merely time-wasting “eye candy.”

Ultimately, pushed and prodded by the users who demanded increased productivity and reduced development cycles, both IT shops and Microsoft learned how to better “protect” the enterprise, to scale applications, and to administer thousands of desktops centrally. Slowly, Corporate IT shops, actively courted by Microsoft, began to adopt, if not embrace Microsoft’s email and rapid development tools.

Today, it’s a different story. Microsoft still pushes personal productivity, but today it enjoys a solid place in Enterprise computing, with Windows and Office on practically every desktop, tools like Microsoft Exchange delivering email to millions of corporate users, Microsoft’s servers in use (perhaps not exclusively) in nearly every enterprise, and Microsoft’s Visual Studio and .NET development tools are pervasive in the corporate environment.

Team Google saw and learned.

Their goal, too, is to be pervasive, and at the core of enterprise computing. But Google seems determined to avoid the painful missteps of IBM and Microsoft in earlier generations. They learned from what IBM and Microsoft did right, and maybe more importantly, where they went wrong. They understood that “push” from users is more effective than “pull” from the IT guys, so they started with Google’s ubiquitous Search, a personal productivity tool. They certainly understand that computing needs to be fun and a little bit whimsical. More importantly, they saw both Microsoft and IBM before them build up a large base of enemies who resented high costs per seat, and the arrogance of power. Google’s philosophy (enunciated here) and encapsulated in its “Do no evil” motto, is primarily designed to to protect Google from the pitfalls of the “arrogance of power.” Right at the outset, they figured out that “free” is good, and “let Joe pay for it” is even better. Giving things away free engenders love. It’s hard to hate when you’re not paying for it. Just as “users” (viewers) tolerate some amount of advertising on TV in return for “free” programming, so too, users would accept some amount of non-intrusive advertising in return for free information and services. A key Google insight was that if the ads it served up were unobtrusive and truly relevant, users wouldn’t resent them at all.

These insights, revolutionary back then but which every schoolboy today  takes for granted, are what got Google to this point. Now, they feel ready to tackle the enterprise. In upcoming posts, interspersed with our usual reporting on the comings and goings of Google, its friends, and its enemies, we’ll take a hard look at Google’s first steps towards taking on the enterprise.

Imagining Google in the Year 2014

A few years ago, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson made a short film, with music by Aaron McLeran, where  they imagined the evolution of Google to the year 2014, including a merger with Amazon. It’s called EPIC and you can click on the link to view it. It may be more relevant today than then.

The eight-minute film was purportedly sponsored by the “Museum of Media History (MMH)” in “Tampa Bay Federal District, FL.” Many thanks to my friend Raja Choudhury, the genius behind C3Cube a company built on creativity and design (with a very impressive reel on its site), who brought this interesting little film to my attention. It certainly gives you something to think about, and especially  given all of the goings on in the last few months, and the potential media and Internet transactions being discussed daily.

I found it noteworthy that the Museum and the District do not exist. David Warlick tells that tale on his blog. It seems like the film was “discovered” by Doug Johnson, a highly respected educator, thinker, and author, who found it “a very interesting (and frightening) short clip on the future of how technology may impact on the News.” However, David Warlick reports that the provenance of the film was challenged by Paul Nash, an equally respected educator and technologist from New Zealand, who first noticed that MMH is imaginary. Warwick says that he himself tracked down Robin Sloan, one of the writers and designer of the Flash production, who appears to have been associated with with INdTV, started by Al Gore (and now known as Current TV) See also http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45826-2005Jan3.html. Sloan also authors a blog, called “Large is the New Medium” (http://www.robinsloan.com/blog/).

Anyway, Sloan and Thompson have forced us to think, especially as we contemplate the potential media combinations being talked about daily in the past few weeks.

I’m wondering, after viewing it, what do GoogleGazer readers think?

If You Pay Them, They Will Come – Microsoft Pays for Searching on Microsoft Live

In one of the more pre-announced announcements, Microsoft today followed up yesterday’s three press releases about its new push in digital advertising with another one today, announcing a plan to pay a rebate to users who search for goods on Microsoft Live and then complete a purchase. The new program is called Microsoft Live Search Cashback. Key partners including eBay, Barnes & Noble.com, Overstock.com, Sears, Zappos.com, and WPP joined Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at advance08, Microsoft’s annual advertising customer event, to announce their participation in the new program.

Microsoft says that the complete Live Search cashback product portfolio includes more than 10 million product offers from more than 700 merchants, including more than 13 of the top 40 U.S. retailers. The company also announced it has delivered a new Live Search travel destination, Live Search Farecast, making it easy for searchers to find the best travel deals on the Web.

To take advantage of the program, search for cashback deals at Live Search cashback. Each time you click a Live Search cashback listing, you’ll find deals on the product you chose. Your results will clearly list the cashback savings you’ll receive off the stores price, and your final bottom-line price that includes tax and shipping costs. Also look for this icon cashback Icon when you search for a product on Live Search to find cashback deals.

Increasingly, advertisers look not just for clicks but to have purchases completed, and the Cashback program encourages just such behavior. Advertisers participating in the Cashback program pay for completed sales. A list of merchants participating in the launch may be found here. Discounts set by merchants seem to be in the range of 2% – 20%.

Farecast, a recently acquired service is now available at http://farecast.live.com and while it is part of Live Search, it is not currently part of the Cashback program.

There have been reports that this program will be “disruptive technology,” but while it might prove popular, I don’t think of it as either a paradigm shift or a major threat to Google.

Half a Loaf is Better – Microsoft Wants Yahoo Search, and They Can Keep the Rest

At a conference in Israel, Steve Ballmer said, according to Reuters, that Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo’s search business and take a minority stake in the rest. “We are not bidding to buy Yahoo,” Ballmer said at the launch of Microsoft’s new research and development centre in Israel. “Yet, we are trying to have discussions about deals with Yahoo that might create value, but not a whole acquisition of the company,” he said without elaborating further.

Yahoo has said it was considering a “number of value maximizing strategic alternatives” and would evaluate any proposal made by Microsoft. It is not at all clear that Microsoft’s offer will placate Carl Icahn who last week launched a proxy battle in order to pressure Yahoo to agree to be sold to Microsoft. A number of other large Yahoo shareholders have since said they would back Icahn.

Icahn believes that the $33 per share that Microsoft offered was a good deal for Yahoo shareholders. It seems unlikely that any deal currently on the table would place such a high value on Yahoo.

Separately, rumers keep circulating that Microsoft would like to buy Facebook. As we reported earlier, Microsoft’s existing minority interest in Facebook vales the company atvover $10 billion. The GoogleGazer does not think Microsoft will be willing to make such a large investment, as it would dilutive to its earnings, but perhaps they will take a larger stake in return for some exclusive deals.

The GoogleGazer, on behalf of pundits everywhere, expresses its thanks to Steve Ballmer and Jerry Yang for giving them us all something juicy to write about every day.

Microsoft Highlights its Advertising Capabilities and New Brand Identity

In honor of the advance 08 Advertising Leadership Forum sponsored by Microsoft and held in Redmond, Microsoft not only trotted out the big guns (James Cameroon and Bill Gates), but it also issued three press releases in one day (here, here, and here). Essentially, Microsoft has unified all advertising under the “Microsoft Advertising” banner, and Brian McAndrews, Senior Vice President, Advertiser and Publisher Solutions is in charge of it all. He candidly admitted that “[w]e need to deliver better ROI to our customers by continually improving the quality of impressions, which in turn, will increase conversions. Secondly, we need to demonstrate stronger industry leadership by continuing to improve our creativity and innovativeness. And finally, we need to constantly work to enhance our industry expertise, constantly focusing on our clients’ businesses to provide tangible solutions to their problems. We are committed to addressing the most prevalent issues quickly and to continuing to foster dialogue about what our customers need, and what we can and should be focusing on to help them succeed.”

With the Rapt acquisition now closed, Microsoft plans to to fold their advertising yield management solutions into the Atlas division as a key component of the Atlas Suite of technologies and services. Microsoft also is digesting several strategic acquisitions, including the ad exchange, AdECN, which closed the same day as aQuantive, the behavioral targeting company YaData and Rapt. Microsoft’s Advertiser and Publisher Solutions (APS) Group. The Microsoft Advertising brand will encompass Microsoft’s digital advertising platform businesses, Atlas, AdECN, adCenter, DRIVEpm, Massive and ScreenTonic, as well as the company’s media offerings for advertisers.

Microsoft also announced the extension of display advertising capabilities to two key Windows Live for mobile services – Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail – alongside the launch of Windows Live for mobile services in new international markets. Microsoft also plans to enable advertisers to manage keyword campaigns through Microsoft adCenter in Windows Live Search Mobile.

Engagement Mapping, currently being tested, allows firms to track back through all previous interactions consumers have had with advertising and marketing messages across multiple sites and channels culminating in the sale to gain more sophisticated insights into what influences buying decisions.

In addition, Microsoft recently demonstrated a new smart shopping cart, developed in concert with computerized shopping cart manufacturer MediaCart Holdings and Wakefern Food Corporation, a leading regional US grocery chain. The cart is equipped with an onboard digital screen utilizing Microsoft’s Atlas technology to serve video ads to customers as they shop. The system, which will be rolled out across Wakefern’s ShopRite stores later this year, allows shoppers to scan their loyalty cards into MediaCart shopping trolleys and receive ads and promotional offers based on their previous purchases and saved online shopping lists. Advertisers can deploy reporting and analytics capabilities to gauge the performance of the ads.

Looking ahead, new products and services under development in adLabs, the company’s digital advertising technology incubator, include “LifeStages,” a new technology that segments users of Windows Live Spaces into different life stages – for instance, recent college graduates or newlyweds – based on their public blog entries or photo captions. This enables advertisers to better target users by serving up highly-relevant non-intrusive ad content. Also in the works are contextual ads for video, deploying speech recognition technology to present relevant ads to consumers while they view video clips online without interrupting their viewing experience.

While all of the above reflects progress, Microsoft still has a very long way to go until it offers Google serious competition in the digital advertising arena.

Google Opens Kimono – Discusses Advances in Search, Recognition, and its Health Initiative

yesterday opened the kimono (a little bit) to reveal glimpses of what is coming to Google. In her post on the Official Google Blog, she discussed where innovation is most likely to come from. She also gave an update on Google Health.

“When we talk about search, we mean images, news, finance, books, local, and geographical information as well as web search. These media types are becoming more and more integral in our core universal search, but each presents its own challenges, innovations, and triumphs,” she said.

At an “informal gathering” at Google for invited close friends only, visitors were given a peek at what’s to come. R.J. Pittman, Director of Search Properties, showed some of the advances Google’s made in image search — an early form of face recognition is now available on advanced search (strangely, Google did not provite a link, but we have), for example. He also showed how ads might work to enhance the user experience on image search. Pittman also demonstrated the underlying technologies that Google News has deployed to support features like quotes from newsmakers and better quality search for local news.

Carter Maslan, Director of Local Search Quality, then talked about Google’s Geo products (Maps and Earth and their features) and the fact that they represent a considerable search problem: how do you take all of the information about the physical world and make it searchable? How do you label disputed borders? How can Street View help you find where you are going? She recounted that Google Earth has helped archaeologists find things they’ve looked for for years (i.e. a Roman villa in someone’s backyard). According to Maslan, and we’ve noticed it also, user-generated content is the rage right now, but in addition to entertaining shared videos and photos, the user-generated content that Google says its seeing on geo products is profoundly useful (I wish the post gave some examples).

Johanna Wright, Director of Search Quality discussed the search quality team’s efforts toward understanding the ever-elusive “user intent” (“this is what you typed, but here’s what you meant”). This makes universal search even more useful. In the future, you’ll get pictures or maps when that’s what you meant. Understanding user intent also helps “break down language barriers and find the best possible answer regardless of what language it’s in or where it lives on the web,” she said.

Google Health was also first made publicly available. It offers users a safe and secure way to collect, store, and manage their medical records and health information online. As Ms. Mayer observed, “How many of us have touched, or even seen, our medical records? In this day and age of information, isn’t it crazy that you don’t have a copy of your medical records under your control? You could use those records to develop a better understanding of your health and ultimately get better care. It’s your data about your own health; why shouldn’t you own and control it?”

(This is an issue Ms. Mayer first wrote about in February. The objective of Google Health is to harness the power of the Internet to put users in control of their own medical records. Data will stay with you — “if you change doctors, want a second opinion, if you’re traveling — and not stay siloed or stuck in files or databases that you can’t get to,” she said. Google Health was today with several partners and third party services already integrated and include  CVS, Walgreens, Quest Diagnostics and Longs Drugs.

To avoid public ouutcry, Google has put strong privacy policies in place to keep the information safe and private.  (I found the controls so strong that I was not able to access any of my date stored on partner’s websites, for lack of a “pin” controlled by my physician gatekeepers who were totally unaware of the program. Ms. Mayer recognizes that “there’s a lot left to do in health — literally thousands of partnerships to forge and petabytes of data to move around”. She says that Google is looking forward to hearing feedback from early Google Health adopters about this first step. I’m guessing that they will get a lot of it.

You can see the webcast here.

The information provided on Google’s blog is tantalizing, but rather than “opening the kimono” where all is revealed, it’s more like hiking a floor-length kimono up eight or ten inches. Nice, but you want to see more.

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