As an admin for Google Apps Premier Edition, I received an e-mail last night from The Google Apps Team about forthcoming changes to Google Apps. There are three:
- New Sharing Settings (starting June 16): “Now your users will be able to assign a sharing setting to a file in just one step and see at-a-glance how each document is shared.” There are three levels of sharing within the domain (private, people at your domain with the link, your domain), and two outside the domain (anyone with the link, public on the web). For additional info, see http://goo.gl/I8Jp.
- New Google Docs Editor (starting June 21): “This new editor offers character-by-character real-time collaboration, better document import fidelity, and many new features like built-in chat with co-editors.” This change means that three current capabilities are going away: (1) the ability to edit the document offline via Google Gears, (2) the ability to edit HTML, and (3) the ability to edit Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). I’m not a fan of yanking current functionality; it will be interesting to find out what users think. For additional info, see http://goo.gl/8Idy.
- New Google Spreadsheet Editor (starting June 30): “This new editor offers many new features like an editable formula bar, cell auto-complete and faster performance.” For additional info, see http://goo.gl/Qgze.
I’d say the updates are evenly split between improving collaboration and improving functionality for individual users. For a company that disdains productivity suites–last year Google refused to officially participate in my productivity suite quadrant study because “Google Docs is developed with collaboration in mind”–it’s somewhat surprising that they’re putting so much effort into improving capabilities for individual users. Or maybe not. From my point-of-view, you can’t divorce individual user capabilities from collaboration capabilities. You need to support sophisticated user functionality to support sophisticated collaboration. While you don’t have to have sophisticated features to initially support collaboration, users will eventually demand them. It increases the scope of what they can collaborate on, and supports their individual work requirements if they start living in the collaboration environment.