Web & communication software

Google Buzz Not Ready for Paying Customers, Are We Concerned?

If Google's new Buzz isn't ready for enterprise users' private networks, is it really ready for anyone? The delay between Tuesday's release of free consumer Buzz and the paid enterprise version is worrysome, especially if there are security or stability issues.

The only people who should--for sure--be interested in Buzz are paid Google Apps Premier Edition customers, for whom is should be a private, high-quality, preconfigured social networking intranet. But, it isn't. Not yet, and there's no definite word as to when, just "within a few months."

My guess is adding the necessary enterprise administration features to consumer Buzz takes time, perhaps accounting for the delayed release. Or maybe walling-off enterprise Buzz from consumer Buzz is the hold-up. Or it could be something else.

Regardless, Google's paying Gmail and Apps customers have reason to feel shortchanged. Why can't we get Buzz along with everyone else?

Buzz is an unusual introduction for Google. First, unlike the Google Wave collaboration tool, Buzz arrives ready to do real work. Second, it arrives without a "beta" tag, as happened with so many Google services before. And Buzz use is not by-invitation, which means Google has to roll Buzz out to everyone almost at once.

Everyone, that is, except Google's best customers, it's paying customers. It seems odd they should get Buzz after everyone else. Google was under no pressure to introduce Buzz right now, so why not wait and introduce Buzz to all users at once?

Companies who have purchased Google Apps Premier Edition (for $50-per-user annually), should consider Buzz to be a major new feature. An already configured, fully-featured social network that is firewalled against participants outside the company ought to be attractive to many companies. Especially if it comes at no additional cost.

While I don't see much reason for consumers and business people to embrace Buzz, I can imagine it making Google Apps Premier Edition much more attractive to potential corporate customers, especially those who see the service not as an apps suite but as a replacement for Microsoft Exchange.

Google Apps (both the free "Standard" and paid "Premier" editions) includes Gmail, calendar, contact manager, a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, groups, web sites, and chat. Everything past "calendar" in that list is less fully-featured that I'd like and may disappoint. The word processor and spreadsheet, for example, are great for collaborative projects but not much else.

The mail and calendaring, however, are top notch and can easily replace a Microsoft Exchange server. Premier Edition's enterprise Gmail can be accessed using a web browser (Gmail client) or via desktop client applications, including Outlook. My iPhone "thinks" Google Apps are an Exchange Server, and it also works with other mobile devices.

Premier Edition also comes with enterprise administration tools and truly awesome spam/malware filtering. (Tony Bradley talks more about Buzz for enterprise users here).

I've been using Google Apps Premium Edition for two months and have been very pleased with the e-mail and calendar features. The other elements, though less "finished," do what they promise to do. The package makes collaboration easier, but can't compete with Microsoft Office on a feature-by-feature basis.

While I don't see Buzz displacing Facebook in my life (though the two will certainly compete), I can imagine using Buzz with coworkers to share ideas and information internally, and perhaps with selected business contacts and partners.

Sadly, that won't happen soon, though Google promises it will happen.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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