Google has added a video sharing component to its Apps Premier suite of hosted communication and collaboration software, betting that companies will find it useful for a variety of workplace uses.
The Google Video service was due to debut in Apps Premier on Tuesday, allowing end-users to upload clips and share them with co-workers using an interface very similar to Google's YouTube, the most popular video sharing service in the consumer market.
Apps Premier is the fee-based version of the suite, which also has free editions like Standard and Education. Google is adding the video application without raising the price of Apps Premier, which costs US$50 per user per year.
As online video has gone mainstream among consumers, Google believes that organizations of all sizes will benefit from extending their communication with employees via clips for purposes like training, company announcements and broadcasting company events.
Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google Enterprise, said Apps Premier's video application will change how people collaborate at work. Like the rest of Apps Premier, it is designed to be simple enough for all employees to use it.
Each clip can be up to 300M bytes in size, and Apps Premier subscribers get 3G-bytes of video storage per user account. Administrators will have a variety of controls over the service, such as being able to edit or remove clips, generate usage reports and create tag taxonomies.
The Apps Education edition will also gain video capabilities as a free trial between Sept. 8 and March 9 next year. Afterward, it will cost $10 per user per year.
Google is confident that the video application will give Apps Premier a significant differentiator in the market, since the cost of implementing and running a video-upload and -sharing system puts it beyond the means of most businesses.
The Apps Premier video service will run off the same infrastructure as YouTube and use that service's technology for flagging copyright and inappropriate content, Glotzbach said.
The Apps suite also includes Gmail; Talk; Calendar; Sites; the Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentations software; and other applications.
With Apps, Google is championing the popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, in which vendors host applications in their data centers and deliver them via the Internet. The SaaS approach is seen by its backers as the future of software, which has traditionally been installed by customers on their own facilities and hardware.
Delivering applications from the Internet "cloud" reduces the effort and cost customers have to invest in installing and maintaining software. In addition, these Web-hosted applications are designed to promote and simplify how co-workers share and collaborate, since documents reside on a central server and not on individual PCs.
However, concerns exist about the security of hosting software and data in a vendor data center and the loss of control over application performance and availability when vendor servers crash. Another issue with hosted applications is accessing them without an Internet connection, something Google is addressing with its Gears browser plug-in.
2nd Wind Exercise Equipment adopted Google Apps in February for its roughly 330 employees when it faced a Microsoft Exchange upgrade that also involved buying new hardware and would have cost around $225,000.
After researching Apps Premier, the Minneapolis retailer concluded that the Google suite met its requirements at a fraction of the cost of the Exchange upgrade, said Tom Kelly, 2nd Wind's chief financial officer and CIO. The company has also cut down significantly on its Microsoft Office licenses.
The company is pleased with Apps Premier, and more so now with the video service, which it had a chance to test in recent months. It is using it for training and corporate communications, and was also able to move its TV commercials from its former video storage provider to the Google suite, eliminating a $12,000-per-year expense, Kelly said.
The quality of the video streaming has been very good. "It's very quick, very smooth. We've had no buffering issues at all," he said.
Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann said the video service is "a potentially very powerful business tool, particularly from the training perspective."
It will be in Google's best interest to evangelize among Apps Premier administrators the various scenarios and uses in which creating and uploading a video can be useful, Wettemann said.
"There are many cases in the business environment where, if I could shoot a quick little video to show people something, I could get my point across much more effectively than with e-mail or a phone conversation," she said.