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Google needs to be more transparent about users of and usage of Google Apps in enterprises

by Tom Austin  |  January 23, 2009  |  6 Comments

Michael Arrington on TechCrunch just published a piece on Google cutting back on the number of free user accounts an enterprise can have, dropping the number of people within an enterprise that can be signed up for Google Apps Standard Edition from 200 to 50.

It’s not clear what the business implications – for Google or users of Google Apps – really is. We believe that at least 90 percent of Google Apps users in enterprises are using the truly free version, the one that doesn’t tie to your enterprise domain.

If we take Google’s numbers at face value, i.e., a million businesses and more than 10 million users, and begin to poke at them, it’s not clear what’s impacted here. Roughly half the businesses in the US are sole proprietorships and tiny firms with just a handful of people. They’re not impacted by this move. What no one (except Google) knows (and they might not have good demographics on casual users who use Google Docs at instead of at is how many enterprises with more than 50 users have signed their users up for Google Apps Standard Edition. (And how many with more than 500 users, 1000 users and so forth.)

Google Docs have been around for more than two years now. Just how many enterprises with hundreds or thousands of users have standardized on gmail and Google Docs?

Google isn’t saying. They’re not being transparent . All of which either hurts them – because people want to know before investing; or it hides a weakness – if too few enterprise users are really using the product. The average enterprise IT shop is not naive. Trotting out Genentech over and over again isn’t enough.

If Google can’t provide a lot more data to establish their credibility in the enterprise space, enterprises won’t take them seriously.

What’s your take on Google Apps?


Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Google needs to be more transparent about users of and usage of Google Apps in enterprises

  1. Toby Bell says:

    Great post, Tom You’re absolutely right… this makes clear that Google isn’t ready for prime time. Scaling back so soon undermines the quality of its strategic plan.

  2. Jeffrey Mann says:

    I don’t have any real objection to Google changing their policies. Things change. However, silently changing 100 to 200 to 50 is more than just not transparent; it’s sneaky. I expect more from a company that puts not being evil at number 6 of their ten points of guiding philosophy.

  3. Guy Creese says:

    Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) is SMB only, and will remain so until Google fixes the problems that enterprises have been telling them about for two years–lack of records management capabilities for documents, role-based administration, the ability to embed e-mail distribution lists within distribution lists, etc.

    In my view, Genentech as an enterprise client is a red herring; after all, the head of Genentech serves on Google’s Board. However, to be fair, Google Apps is used by organizations with tens of thousands of users: universities. Arizona State uses the full range of services; however, many just use e-mail, or have rolled out GAPE only to students.

    As an IT industry analyst at Burton Group, I wrote a report 18 months ago saying GAPE would not do well in large enterprises–and I’ve been right. However, based on conversations with many clients, there is clear enterprise demand for such a SaaS suite if only the functionality were much closer to what enterprises have grown to expect from software. The question is whether Google finally gets its act together and delivers it, or is beaten to the punch by Microsoft, ThinkFree, Zoho, or someone else.

  4. Steve Berry says:

    Surely much of this is driven by Google’s creation of a reseller channel. It cannot get traction in enterprises because it’s (small) sales force cannot handle the elongated sales cycles prevalent in large organisations. Hence the need to give a reseller model a chance; and they will not want to to handicap resellers by continuing to offer a free service to SMBs with up to 200 employees.

  5. Joseph says:

    According to Dave Girouard, Google’s President of Enterprise, says that “If it weren’t for the reseller program, I can say for sure that we wouldn’t have put the cap on the free edition. The reality pre-reseller is that the vast majority of larger businesses opt for the paid version”.


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