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Google Searches for More Enterprise Customers

The main focus at Google I/O was how the search giant could attract more customers to its three-year-old enterprise business.


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SAN FRANCISCO -- With its search business and catchy TV commercials for Android phones, Google has looked mostly like a consumer company.

But at its Google I/O conference here Wednesday, which attracted 5,000 people, the main focus was on how Google could attract more customers to its three-year-old enterprise business.

[login] The conference’s wireless network was overwhelmed with traffic, the fire marshal was walking the halls to remove people from meeting rooms if they got too full, and an unknown number of people were turned away.



“Even Google was surprised (at the turnout),” said Google’s Sundar Pichai from the stage.

Still, Google executives pushed ahead, announcing several new projects that they said would make Google a more attractive partner for businesses both big and small.

All of these projects are works in progress. Google is collaborating with VMware on tools that will enable developers to write Web applications that are portable across public and private clouds. The two companies started talking late last year, according to VMware CEO Paul Maritz, who spoke from the stage, after VMware acquired Springsource, a popular Java framework.

“These infrastructure clouds are the new hardware -- so what is the new operating system, the new layer of abstraction?” asked Maritz, who once ran Microsoft’s Windows business. “It’s these extended frameworks. We’re working with Google to bring to bear what we know about writing on the back end with what Google has developed on the front end. It’s the perfect marriage.”

Then Ben Alex of Springsource went onstage and built an expense report app with less than 200 keystrokes that drew from a database of 20 million records. He and Google’s engineering director, Bruce Johnson, were able to update the app from both an iPad and an Android phone, despite the shaky conference Internet connection. Both Google and VMware have posted roadmaps for the tools on their Web sites at /cloudportability.

In another bid to attract business customers, Google is updating its two-year-old Google App Engine so that it can be used by corporate IT staffs to manage their businesses’ internal applications. So far, it’s been used by companies like Best Buy for public-facing Web sites.

The new version, called Google App Engine for Business, will have a management console so IT staffs can see their applications and set corporate wide security policies, a service level agreement from Google, SSL for their domains and the option to run the App Engine on a SQL database in addition to Google’s current offering, called Big Table.

Pricing will also be simplified to $8 a month per user, up to $1,000 per application per month. Developing and testing applications is free. A road map for the App Engine is posted at code.google.com. (The management console comes first).

Google discovered problems with the App Engine partly because its own CIO has been ordered to move all of Google’s applications to the cloud, Google executives said.

Google has added speed and stability to Google Wave -- a communications platform that came out of beta today and has been adopted by SAP, Novell, Oracle and Salesforce.com, among others.

And Google is trying to get business application developers to sell their applications through the Google App store, which was announced a couple of months ago and now has 50 partners.

Three developers -- executives from ManyMoon, SlideRocket and Atlassian -- talked about their experiences with the store, which were mostly positive. ManyMoon CEO Amit Kulkami said he choose the Google App Store over Facebook and LinkedIn because it attracts a qualified audience of business buyers who want software sold as a service. Google claims 25 million users for the store.

ManyMoon offers free software that lets people set up and track projects through Gmail. Since joining the Google App Store, ManyMoon has attracted 1,000 new businesses a week, even though the software is still available on ManyMoon’s own Web site, Kulkami said. Some of those customers have started paying for ManyMoon’s premium version.

He said Google has been helpful with marketing, developing customer case studies and integration with its own APIs like Google Calendar. He would like more help with billing customers, but he said Google is also working on that.


   
Deborah Gage is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about business and technology from Silicon Valley for over 15 years.
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