It’s 2015 and no one today questions that there are two major Coke-and-Pepsi options for email and office files: Microsoft Office and Google Apps.
But ten years ago, when Google Apps was an infant, “The whole industry looked at us like we were crazy,” recalls Rajen Sheth, a director of product management for Google’s Enterprise team.
“At that time, that’s 2005, the concept of cloud was incredibly nascent at the time. I remember some of the first meetings with schools we did at the time where they said, no way, we’re not going to put student’s emails on your servers. And with CIOs. Literally, there were meetings where they threw us out after five minutes.”
Today he’s working on business-friendly Chrome and Android products, like Chrome OS, Android security options, and so on.
But back in 2005, he was the very first product manager for Google Apps for Business. He joined Google from VMware, where he helped build what would become that company’s flagship product, and previously did a short stint at Microsoft working on Hotmail.
Back in 2005, Google was a far smaller company than Microsoft, with a market cap of about $US51 billion at the start of the year (doubled to over $US110 billion by year’s end). In comparison, Microsoft was valued at $US275 billion that year.
“When I joined the team, the only product they had [for enterprise] was the Google Search Appliance. So I came in to start some other product. And that some other product became Google Apps for Business. I was the original product manager for Google Apps,” he remembers. “Many of those companies are now customers of ours. It’s amazing.”
Google Apps started with Gmail. His team created a version of Gmail to sell to businesses and added a calendar, built in-house, then Docs and Spreadsheets, which were acquired through two acquisitions, Upstartle (which made an online spreadsheet called Writely) and 2Web Technologies (which made a spreadsheet called XL2Web). Then they added other features like videoconferencing.
“The big moment happened in 2012 in schools. We had this great school in Chicago with 3,000 [students]. They pitched us on why they should be using Chromebooks in schools. We really doubled down on education,” he said. Schools like Google because Chromebooks are easy to use and easy to support. Google likes the education market because these kids learn about the cloud and Google’s devices really young.
Now the same story is happening with businesses, Sheth says. “Because these devices are so much lower cost to manage. They are able to replace Windows XP devices trying to get rid of or enable new groups of users. Seeing more and more of that activity.”
Flash forward to today and Google Enterprise (now called Google for Work) is a whole ecosystem of partners and products including Apps, Drive (cloud storage), cloud computing infrastructure (where people can rent Google’s cloud to build and/or run their own apps), special work-friendly versions of Android, special devices including Chromebooks, and Chromeboxes.
Google claims it has 5 million customers using Apps, including huge deals with companies like Whirlpool and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and over 40 million students, teachers and administrators using it.