Let's take a look at Google's two enterprise ecosystems: Google Apps and Chrome.
Google Apps ecosystem
Google Apps is Google’s most established enterprise-friendly ecosystem.
Gmail, Calendar, and Drive meet core email, scheduling, and document collaboration needs. Hangouts enables messaging and meetings. All of these work reliably in a web browser and on Android and iOS devices.
If Google Apps administrators allow, additional apps may be added. An administrator adds a third-party app from the Google Apps Marketplace to make an app available to all users. (People access these apps after authenticating with their Google Apps account: no additional username or password is needed.) Alternatively, an end user may choose an add-on to Google Docs and Sheets to accomplish a specific task (such as a printing labels).
Google Apps also enables legal compliance. Google Vault helps companies meet email retention requirements. And Google will sign a business associates agreement with organizations that must meet HIPAA requirements and want to use Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and/or Vault.
Google also has a second ecosystem, built around Chrome.
The Chrome browser, Chrome OS, and Chrome devices comprise the Chrome ecosystem.
Chrome offers enterprises a fast and secure browser. Chrome OS supports connections to virtual private networks (VPNs) that encrypt traffic between the Chromebook and the VPN server, which may be an enterprise server or a third-party VPN service. Chrome works reliably on Mac, Windows, and Linux systems, plus on Android and iOS devices.
Chromebooks simplify laptop maintenance for organizations when used with Google Apps. The ecosystems are complementary. Login to a Chromebook with your Google Apps account to access your applications and data, then logout. Hand the Chromebook to someone else, and when they login, they’ll see all of their apps and data. (Login to Chrome, and you can sync settings among work and home systems running Chrome, as well.)
Chrome supports “Chrome packaged apps,” which are modified web apps. These apps can also sync across systems, along with your settings. Packaged apps work offline — despite advertising that implies otherwise by a competitor.
Chrome eases the transition to the web
Enterprises built in an earlier era often rely on legacy network architecture, infrastructure, and applications. Moving these legacy systems to the cloud may not be economically feasible. Chrome can help ease an enterprise’s transition to the cloud.
With Chrome and VMware, there’s no need to maintain legacy installed software on individual systems: instead, virtualize it and replace high-maintenance laptops with Chromebooks.
Complementary Google Apps + Chrome ecosystems
Google’s Chromebox for Meetings ($999) provides a system for video conferencing built on a customized configuration of Chrome and Hangouts. This is an affordable, easy-to-use video conferencing alternative that's clearly aimed at the small business and organizational market.
Google’s inexpensive Chromecast ($35) plugs into an HDMI port on a television or display. Thanks to a Chrome extension, you can “tab cast” or send the contents (audio and video) of a Chrome browser tab to the TV. It’s an inexpensive way to present Google Slides in a meeting room.
The two devices — Chromebox for Meetings and Chromecast — leverage both ecosystems.
With Chrome and Google Apps, Google is building at least two cloud-scale enterprise ecosystems. Google Apps provides the core set of applications, while Chrome offers a platform that eases the transition from old to new architectures.
I find the combination of the two ecosystems interesting to watch.
I’m also intrigued about the future of Google+ and Android in the enterprise. Where do you think Google+ and Android fit? Will either evolve to become core components of Google’s enterprise offerings? Or are they already? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.