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Google Enhances Messaging in Gmail; Enters Unified Communications Race

November 25, 2008

For those that are competing in the telecommunications space, the prospect of going up against a formidable competitor can either be perceived as a worthwhile challenge or a serious threat to market share. When that competitor is Google, companies have to take a closer look at this power player and how its actions could create dominance in the market.

According to a eWeek.com article by Clint Boulton, Google is making waves in unified communications with a firm foundation in its Gmail offering. The company launched voice and video chat for Gmail on November 11, which many consider to be adding a new dimension into the Web mail application used by more than 50 million users.  

Boulton highlighted that Rajen Sheth, Google Apps product manager, has denied that Google has a strategy in place to steal share from messaging and collaboration software rivals Microsoft, IBM and Cisco. Given this new launch, however, and Google is now being perceived as a serious unified communications and collaboration player in the cloud computing for the enterprise space.

Google Gmail started as a basic compose/send/receive Web mail application in 2004. With its growing success and latest integrations, the application is taking on more of the look and feel of Microsoft SharePoint than the Microsoft Outlook or Windows Live Hotmail.

Such comparisons may not hold much water with Microsoft users as Gmail lacks many of the features that SharePoint offers. Even Google admits that its application falls short and will have a tough time drawing away SharePoint-loyal users such as CIOs who have to satisfy the needs of collaboration-seeking knowledge workers.

Google’s latest move to add voice and video chat to Gmail is thought to be the perfect offering for some businesses, especially those that are smaller than the multi-thousand tenant SharePoint or IBM Lotus shops.

While Sheth denied that Google is going after IBM Lotus Sametime, SharePoint or Cisco WebEx Connect, the reality is that Web mail is changing and evolving and Google appears to be driving it. Sheth described the move as the company’s efforts to try to upgrade the messaging capabilities in its mail platform.

In an interview with Boulton, Sheth noted that Google is simply delivering its brand of unified communications through a Web browser, which had not done well at all in the industry as of yet.

Sheth told Boulton: “One of the hallmarks of Google is the concept of incremental delivery and not necessarily trying to anticipate three years in advance what a consumer or an enterprise customer would want, but develop as if we're having a dialog with our end-user. A lot of this came out of that.”
Don’t forget to check out unified communications’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users. Today’s featured white paper is Fixed Service Strategies for Mobile Network Operators, brought to you by Comverse.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for unified communications and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart

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