Google Reveals 2008 Plans For Google Apps

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Google is usually fairly tight lipped about future product releases. But they were surprisingly revealing about upcoming plans for Google Apps at an event in Ann Arbor earlier this week. Blogger Andrew Miller took some great notes from a presentation by Googler Scott Johnston, the VP of Product Development at wiki startup Jotspot prior to their acquisition by Google a little over a year ago.

First, Google Sites, an evolution of Google Page Creator, will launch in 2008. Google Sites will be based on JotSpot collaboration tools and will allow businesses to create intranets, project management tracking, extranets and other custom sites.

We should also expect Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar to soon work offline via Google Gears. This has been widely predicted, but it’s good to see it coming more formally from Google (note that Zoho, a Google Docs competitor, already has offline functionality via Google Gears).

Some of the other stuff is more speculative, but worth the read (pivot tables on Google Spreadsheets? I doubt it).

* Google Sites: Scheduled to be launched sometime next year (2008), Google Sites will expand upon the Google Page Creator already offered within Apps. Based on JotSpot collaboration tools, Sites will allow business to set up intranets, project management tracking, customer extranets, and any number of custom sites based on multi-user collaboration.

* Will users be able to edit docs, spreadsheets and presentation offline? Scott’s answer was yes, and that the Google Gears plugin would handle the offline work. In addition, Google Gears support is in the works for Gmail and Google Calendar.

* What happens when somebody edits a document offline at the same time another user is editing the online version? The same algorithm that reconciles simultaneous editing will apply here when the offline version is merged back into the online version. Changes will be versioned the same way, so basically in chronological order.

* Will Google docs have OCR capabilities for importing .pdfs or other graphical files? Not yet, but perhaps someday. Scott couldn’t comment on the “roadmap” for future enhancements. However, the collaborative Google Sites (based on JotSpot) will allow for upload and storage of any file type.

* Will GrandCentral be integrated into Google Apps? If so, when? Again, Scott didn’t comment on the timing but said they are working on it and it is a “huge priority” for them.

* Will Google Spreadsheets ever have advanced features like pivot tables, macros or offline database integrations? (This was actually my question) Scott said they are constantly trying to find the balance between speed and utility. It will never be a heavy duty analytics program because that would be too heavy and bulky for the average user.

* Will Google Apps support video conferencing in addition to Google Talk and Chat? Scott’s answer, “Not yet”. I got the impression from his body language that it’ll come someday, but nothing more was said.

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