Google seeks to sell agencies on hosted software

Google's foray into business software applications last week will give government employees at every level the means to exchange and collaborate on documents over the Internet, according to Google officials.

The ever-evolving search giant just began selling software products on demand to government and industry. The "software as a service" or "hosted software" approach is not new in the business world, but government has not yet adopted the technology. Online software involves buying access to Internet-based software that is managed by an outside vendor.

"The idea of using software as a service is gaining a lot of traction in corporate America," Michael Lock, the head of Google Enterprise North America, told Technology Daily. However, he acknowledged that the intelligence world may not be interested.

Google's Web-based office software suite, which it calls Google Apps, includes word processor, spreadsheet, e-mail and calendar functionalities similar to Microsoft Office.

During a breakfast seminar for agency decision-makers and information technology managers, Lock said the system's e-mail application was developed to comply with federal records-management regulations.

Government is widely perceived as being reluctant to embrace cutting-edge technology. But Lock told Technology Daily that increasingly, in his discussions with government personnel, "they're [now] looking at innovation ... whether you're talking about it politically or economically."

He added, "If the government's going to stay as being a late adopter of technology, then it's going to fall behind."

Right now, government and industry outsource only about 10 percent to 12 percent of their computer applications to hosted software vendors, according to Lock. "We're betting that in three to five years," the percentage will be much bigger -- with enterprise Google Apps now out on the market, he said.

Lock added that one reason for the increased interest will be the price. Large organizations, like government agencies, cannot afford enough licenses for desktop suites to accommodate every employee. With Google Apps costing about $50 per worker, all employees could literally be on the same page in the office or on the go.

Managers will be saying, "Hey, $50 a user, I can stop sending these people snail mail," Lock said.

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