Google exec Sundar Pichai spoke very clearly and intelligently about Google Apps and the company’s enterprise business at the Goldman Sachs Technology conference in San Francisco
It was kind of striking. After all, Pichai is the Chrome guy. What does he know about Apps?
In Larry Page’s big reorg last spring, Pichai was promoted to become one of seven senior vice presidents reporting directly to Page. His title was Senior VP of Chrome.
But some time in the last six months or so, that changed. Pichai’s official title these days is SVP Chrome & Apps. It says so right on his Google Plus profile.
There was no big announcement, and the Google spokesperson we asked about it wasn’t exactly sure when it happened.
But the more interesting question than “when” is “why”?
First of all, it’s more logical here than any of the other six business areas — search, social, Android, YouTube, advertising, or local commerce.
There’s a strategic tie-in as well. The whole point of Chrome is to push the Web standards and technologies that Google likes. Or as Pichai put it today, “it’s very important that we have an opinion there, and we do that through the browser.”
By writing Google Apps on many of those same standards and technologies, Google can put even more weight behind them.
But perhaps most important, coordinating the browser with the apps helps Google add support for features it needs.
For instance, a big gap in Google Docs versus Microsoft Word is lack of offline access. Today, Pichai said that Google is still working on it.
But Docs does offer offline access today — for Chrome.
That also means that Google Docs works offline with Chrome OS (which is basically the Chrome browser turned into a full operating system). That’s critical for Chromebooks to be useful and competitive against Microsoft’s Windows PCs.
And sure enough, Google is trying to push Chromebooks to educational institutions — just like it started doing with Apps about five years ago. Pichai called the education business a “leading indicator.”
So basically, Pichai controls development both Google’s Web platform (Chrome) and the apps that run on top of it. Sort of like Windows and Office at Microsoft.
Call him the Microsoft-compete guy. No wonder he got a huge raise last year.