Is Google Targeting Microsoft's SharePoint with Buzz?

Includes: GOOG, MSFT
by: Larry Dignan

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched its new social Gmail experiment dubbed Buzz and the “Twitter killer” comments will be a dime a dozen. But from an enterprise perspective, Google Buzz has a far larger target in mind: Microsoft’s SharePoint.

For sure, Google’s first mission is to take out Twitter. Buzz makes Gmail social. You can follow your contacts. And broadcast things like photos, video and location updates. Simply put, Google Buzz has the potential to usurp Twitter—there’s no 140 character limit—and all of the clients that go with Twitter.

After demos of Google’s Maps integration and how Buzz hops between the home page and Android, Bradley Horowitz, VP of product management at the search giant, said:

Our intention is to launch Buzz as an enterprise product as well. We’ve been testing Buzz in the context of Google and it changed the way we communicate.

In addition, Horowitz noted that Google has an “embarrassment of opportunity” of tying up its services in a nice bow. According to Google’s Enterprise blog, Buzz will roll out with Apps for businesses and schools in a few months.

Gallery: What the Google Buzz is all about

Now let’s look at what Google is trying to tie together from the enterprise perspective:

First, there’s the Google Apps and Docs story (all resources). Google’s main pitch: Gmail saves you money on Microsoft Exchange. And CIOs are receptive to the message because they just don’t want to deal with email management if they don’t have to.

Apps and Docs aren’t quite ready for wide enterprise adoption, but you the story from Google is the same tale told by IBM and other companies launching free (or near free) office suites. The argument: Use Microsoft Office for the power users and then let the rest of the workers—the bulk of folks only do “commodity” word processing, presentations and number crunchers—use the cheaper stuff.

In a nutshell, Google is systematically targeting the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) enterprise beachhead—Exchange, Outlook and Office.

But behind the scenes there’s a big target: SharePoint (all resources). SharePoint in many respects is what keep the Office and Exchange combination relevant. It’s all about the collaboration. We have heard through the grapevine that Google was going to cook up an answer to SharePoint, but the likely candidates were either Google Wave or Sites. Now the roadmap is coming into focus.

The Google Buzz playbook will resemble the current Apps and Docs strategy. Aim Buzz at the smaller companies first since they are the low-hanging fruit. Large enterprises will stick with SharePoint for now until Google makes the ROI case over time like the company currently does with Exchange.

If Google Buzz becomes Google corporate Buzz it could be disruptive. Enterprises could potentially use it to save on Sharepoint licenses. It’s all about the collaboration.

Now it’s premature to call Google Buzz any kind of SharePoint killer, but the search giant’s enterprise strategy and tactics appear to be coming into focus.

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