Many of Google’s products have been going through some major and minor overhauls recently. Gmail went offline, enhanced PDF previews became available on Gmail, Calendars went offline for Enterprise users, Labels had an update and Tasks were added.
Google Gears, the open-source browser extension available for Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer on Windows, Mac, and Linux, has enabled the offline features, which also include Google’s Docs and Reader functions. But the overall aim of Gears is not just to offer users offline capabilities; Google wants to allow these web applications much of the same functionality enjoyed by desktop apps. We wrote about the powerful capabilities of the Gears platform and Google’s potential to create a super browser and pseudo desktop applications for enterprises that could rival and perhaps surpass desktop applications like Microsoft Windows and Office.
Now add this thought to the mix. The recent offline option for Calendars was made exclusively available to enterprise users of Google Apps, with no immediate notice of when regular users of Calendars would be able to access the offline versions. Google’s business software package is a set of its online applications, like Gmail, Google calendar, Google Docs, etc., that are packaged and tailored for enterprise use. According to Google, close to one million business owners are currently using the free version of the Apps product. Originally a wholly free service, Google has gradually introduced a paid “premier service” of Apps, while simultaneously rolling back the number of users allowed for the free service. The premier service for businesses costs $50 per user per year.
So here are a few questions I want to throw out for consideration. Is Google’s move to introduce the offline version of Calendar to enterprise users only the beginning of shift in the way it will roll out features based on the Gears platform? Is this all part of Google’s master plan to not only put a dagger in the heart of Microsoft office products by creating a better, cheaper desktop application for businesses, but also a strategy to create revenue (besides the existing advertising support) from Apps?