Blogger: Larry Cannell
In less than two weeks I will be talking about the enterprise SaaS e-mail market at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in a presentation entitled “Is Email the Next Killer SaaS App?” This is based on a report we wrote last year, shortly after Microsoft detailed plans for Exchange Online and the Business Productivity Online Suite.
At that time it looked like a competitive enterprise SaaS e-mail market was forming with the promise of Yahoo marketing a Zimbra-based offering and, of course, Google’s low-priced Gmail getting the attention of many IT managers. Also, when Cisco acquired Postpath last year they announced the software would not longer be available for purchase and become part of a SaaS offering (Postpath is a near drop-in replacement for an Exchange Server). So these moves by Cisco, as well as Google and Yahoo, appeared to be significant attempts to disrupt the enterprise e-mail market.
However, until today Google seemed reluctant to get too cozy with Outlook, always keeping their relationship at arms-length. It also looks like Yahoo is no longer interested in selling Zimbra as a SaaS offering (however, it is still available from one of their hosting partners). In addition, Oracle is now in the enterprise SaaS e-mail market through their Beehive On Demand offering. However, e-mail is only a feature bundled in with the entire Beehive offering, competing with Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite.
So, in thinking about my E2.0 presentation recently I was feeling somewhat dismayed that more competition hadn’t emerged. I’m also a little concerned that Cisco might come to market with a higher-end suite and, like the others, go after the higher margins. It looked like much of the enterprise SaaS e-mail market was being left to the traditional IT vendors (Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle) marketing more expensive offerings, since support for Outlook is critical for many CIOs to accept a new e-mail system.
Well, the Google Apps team just gave a big ‘ole bear hug to Microsoft Outlook with the release of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. As I wrote here in the past, Outlook is the most flexible enterprise SaaS e-mail client due to is prevailing use, Microsoft’s publication of Exchange and SharePoint protocols, and the MAPI interface. Google Apps Sync leverages the MAPI interface so Outlook essentially thinks it is talking with an Exchange Server (this isn’t new, Zimbra also offers this, as does Oracle, and others). There are some functions which Google’s MAPI code doesn’t support at this time but these may not be show-stoppers for many companies. Switching an enterprise from Exchange to Gmail does not necessarily require users changing their e-mail habits and giving up Outlook, like they had to yesterday.
However, I think there are still some shortcomings with Google’s current offering. But, you’ll have to come to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference to hear about these :-)