Google Introduces Major Incentives For Apps Adoption To Customers And Partners

Google launched an offensive Monday to reassert itself in a cloud productivity tools market it once dominated, offering free Google Apps accounts to mid-market customers under contract with rival vendors as well as subsidies for channel partners deploying the SaaS suite.

Complementing those aggressive incentives, the Internet powerhouse is beefing up the capabilities of Google Apps with new voice dictation and spreadsheet visualization features, Ryan Tabone, director of product management for Google Docs, told CRN.

Google sees the incentive program and added application functionality as a means to expose a new set of potential customers to the cloud-based software that broke major ground in the office productivity market when first introduced almost nine years ago.

[Related: Partners Cheer Google Reorg And New CEO Sundar Pichai]

Sponsored post

That business has become enormously competitive of late, however, with Microsoft's Office 365 cloud suite, at least according to one survey, recently leapfrogging Google Apps to first place in overall market share after years spent chasing Google.

Murali Sitaram, director of global partnerships and alliances at Google for Work, told CRN some 60 percent of the Fortune 500 are already using Google for Work products for both real-time and asynchronous collaboration projects, but many midsize companies have yet to realize the potential savings Apps can deliver them.

That's why the new program is targeting the midmarket - organizations with between 250 and 3,000 users.

Those companies "probably use some productivity tool," said Sitaram. "Our goal is to give them the opportunity to use Google Apps for free while they are under contract." Google will cover the fees for Apps until enterprise agreements with competitors expire, he said.

Google estimates once those companies make the switch, they'll see savings, on average, around 70 percent with Apps as their primary office productivity suite, according to Sitaram.

And to encourage partners to deploy the free instances, Google will pay them $25 per user to subsidize the costs of creating the new accounts.

"We're so confident in our products, so confident that they will see productivity gains, so we will put our money where our mouth is," Sitaram told CRN.

The offer applies to the full Google Apps suite, from e-mail, to communication, storage, sharing, file sync and document management tools, he added. And the customer incentives and partner subsidies are available to all Google for Work resellers, regardless of tier.

The program was conceived as one to be spearheaded by the company's channel, Sitaram told CRN, and Google sees its role as "effectively assisting our partners to take this capability to their potential new customers."

The kind of real-time collaboration Google pioneered with Apps is now mostly taken for granted, Tabone said, but Docs - the document creation and editing component of the suite - still is the only platform to offer true character-level collaboration across multiple users.

But Google finds itself in a strange predicament these days, he said, where it needs to focus not just on the capabilities of Apps, but also respond to false perceptions about what those capabilities are.

Myths have developed, he said, like one purporting that Google Sheets, the spreadsheet, lacks basic functions it indeed possesses.

"We wanted to make sure we weren't only convincing ourselves that we have all this functionality around legacy documents," Tabone said, but also countering those false perceptions, which "is important to make sure customers are comfortable enough in using Docs as a way of replacing primary workflows."

And while "checking features off a list" has never been a goal at Google, some recent product enhancements make Apps easier to use for document creation and collaboration, and more effective a solution for chugging through data, he said.

"Productivity is about capturing ideas, or being able to get your goals done faster," Tabone said. "We wanted to do that by playing to of our strengths, collaboration and machine learning."

Effective voice-recognition typing, for so long a technology just over the horizon, has made major strides of late through a series of progressive advances stemming from machine learning research, he said.

"Speech is the highest bandwidth way to get things out of our mind," Tabone said, "so why can't we allow you to speak and capture it."

Now Docs users can do just that, he said, with long-form transcription available in 40 languages that requires absolutely no training of the system.

The Sheets spreadsheet also introduced a feature last month called Explore that makes it easier to derive visual insights from large data sets, avoiding the need to "hire analysts to actually be able to cut that data and get the key nuggets of information that can be helpful," Tabone said.

"This is just the start of the path that we are going down," he said, one that is intended to help customers "focus on ideas and what you want to accomplish and less on the tools you need to do that."