Google search tools will help grow corporate influence

Google has its eye on the enterprise, however, the company doesn't plan to come busting through the front door but rather is banking on its search technology and end-user adoption of productivity tools to get onto corporate desktops.

The company introduced a number of new tools with definite applicability for helping end users find, organize and share information, last week at its annual press day.

The tools are intended to enhance searching and include version 4.0 of Google Desktop, which features small, customized applications called Gadgets, Google Co-op for targeted searching and sharing of links, and Google Notebook for capturing, saving and sharing links and text from online research.

"The corporate products we are doing step-by-step," said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. "We just did OneBox, which allows you to securely get data from enterprise back ends. You should expect more of that in the future."

Nearly all of Google's revenue comes for online ads, and while that business is under fire from both Yahoo and Microsoft, the enterprise represents a wealth of potential especially as Web-based services and Web 2.0 technologies are taking off.

Google officials repeatedly said last week that they were refocusing their efforts on being a search company because they believe that is where the future lies, and Yahoo, Microsoft and others are not focused on that area. Google claims to devote 70 percent of its development efforts to search, and Schmidt said Google had fallen behind on that tenet.

He said the strategy would be to build everything around search and the new products introduced last week were described as "advancing the state of the art in search."

Analysts say coming into the enterprise through the backdoor and on the back of the Google's Search Appliance may be Google's best bet, but that doesn't mean others aren't watching.

"Growing from the bottom up sounds right," says Matt Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research. "But they are going to have to continue investing in the Google Desktop and Search Appliance to keep competitive." Brown says competitors are taking notice of what Google is doing.

"I think Google will have the most impact on small businesses," he says. "If you have the Search Appliance suddenly you have all this tooling around it [mail, calendaring, desktop, word processor] and it delays you going out and buying a collaboration platform."

Google's step-by-step approach to the corporation can be seen in its OneBox for Enterprise, which was introduced last month as a feature of Search Appliance. The appliance is Google's only revenue-generating enterprise product.

OneBox is a feature used for years on Google's consumer search engine and provides specialized results when users type in package tracking numbers or keywords such as "weather."

Google now has partnerships with the likes of NetSuite, Oracle and Salesforce.com so users can get search results from those systems by typing in a query such as "quarterly sales results." An API released as part of Google's Enterprise Developer program lets corporate developers build connectors to other systems.

Now, Google hopes to use the same model to introduce tools that build off the Search Appliance.

The new gadgets feature is a part of Google Desktop 4.0, which is beta software that uses Google search capabilities to find email and files and show intranet search results. The Desktop also is the anchor for a new feature called Sidebar, which provides a quick glance at personal information and a list of gadgets.

The gadgets are mini-applications. Google has built a number of gadgets including a music player and is offering an API so users can build their own.

Apple has similar features in Mac OS X and Microsoft has a feature also called Gadgets that will ship with Vista.

"Gadgets and the Sidebar are a way to deliver functionality to the desktop," says Matt Glotzbach, senior product manager for Google Enterprise. "You can have a gadget that delivers corporate data to a personal homepage."

He says Google's consumer team is pushing features, but the enterprise team is driving security and IT requirements. "We bring the likes of Oracle and Salesforce.com to the table," says Glotzbach.

It was the corporate team that fostered a feature in the newest version of Google Desktop that lets administrators block at the network level the "search across computers" feature, which was seen as a security risk by many IT shops.

Glotzbach says the steps into the enterprise continue with another new tool -- Google Co-op -- that can be combined with OneBox to offer more relevant search results.

Co-op allows users to associate Web pages with their given area of expertise and then offer those as a link that other users can subscribe to and see as part of their search results.

Google Notebook, which like the other tools is beta software, lets users cut-and-paste text and pictures from the Web into a "notebook" window on the desktop. Users can save the notebooks or share them with other users.

Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experiences, said the Co-op and Google Notebook tools were the company's first foray into social search. That area is another where Google will find competitors as Microsoft and IBM/Lotus are building similar social networking tools around search for their collaboration platforms.

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