Google's new gambit: YouTube for business
Google is making another aggressive move to woo business customers with a new product it is pitching as the YouTube for business.
As part of its package of online software that includes e-mail, instant messaging, calendars, word processing and spreadsheets, Google is now offering video to companies.
YouTube helped jump-start the online video craze with consumers. Corporate parent Google Inc. is banking that it can do the same in the business world.
The free add-on to Google Apps allows employees to upload a video -- say a training video, a corporate announcement or highlights of a sales conference -- and then invite colleagues to view it securely. Employees can also comment on videos, add descriptions and tags, embed videos in internal Web pages, search for any video to which they have access or download videos to their laptops or phones.
It's another salvo in the clash of the tech titans, which has heated up with Google's marketing of online software to compete with Microsoft's lucrative Office business. Microsoft, meanwhile, has spent billions and tried to buy Yahoo to compete with Google in search and advertising. And the companies also battle over online maps, cellphones and, yes, video.
Microsoft is fighting back by throwing lots of money and talent to make more of its software ...
... available as a Web service. The test for Google: Can it move beyond search into online software for enterprises, a space dubbed Enterprise 2.0?
Companies tend to move slowly when buying new software. But small and mid-size companies as well as universities are beginning to seriously consider Google's online software to reduce their costs and technology headaches, analysts say. Google charges companies with more than 50 users $50 a year per user.
How big a draw will video be for businesses? Analysts aren't sure. Until now, companies have been slower to adopt video because of the cost and complexity.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What's a video worth? Leveraged effectively in a business, it could be pretty valuable," said Rebecca Wettemann, a vice president at Nucleus Research. "Google still needs to push the business case why it makes sense."
In making that case, Google will be following in the footsteps of companies such as San Mateo-based Veodia, which also offers companies easier, more affordable ways to use video. Veodia founder and Chief Executive Guillaume Cohen says companies that use Veodia increase collaboration and productivity and forge stronger ties with customers.
Google says it has gotten good results testing the video software internally, for example creating product demonstrations to get real-time feedback.
"We think this is going to change the game," said Rishi Chandra, a Google Apps product manager.
AMR Research analyst Jim Murphy says he's impressed with the progress Google is making in appealing to corporate America.
"Companies are still trying to wrap their arms around what uses video has, but this opens up the door to the possibility that video will become popular within enterprises," Murphy said. "I am starting to field questions from companies about the feasibility of using Google Apps. There are a lot of companies out there still using Lotus Notes thinking about switching to Microsoft Office. That Google has managed to insinuate itself into those discussions is significant."
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Google Video for business. Credit: Google