Thursday, February 28, 2008

Google Sites Takes Aim at SharePoint

A year ago, Google introduced Google Apps, a suite of word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation software that let groups of users edit and view documents over the Web, integrated with gmail and basic personal Web site publishing tools. According to Matt Jansen at Tech Blorge, Matthew Glotzbach (product director for Google Sites) more than 500,000 businesses and several thousand schools and universities have adopted Google Apps and 2,000 to 3,000 more are added each day. NOTE: Google offers an expanded academic edition of Google Apps to schools and nonprofits.

Now Google is set to continue its assault on Microsoft with the roll out of Google Sites yesterday (only a fews days before Microsoft hosts a SharePoint conference in Seattle). The site publishing framework lets office workers create "intranets" -- centralized archives of company information that can only be viewed within an organization rather than on the public Web, which is helpful for team collaborations. In addition, individual team members can also create profile pages of their activities, interests and schedules. In school settings, Google Sites can function as virtual classrooms for posting homework assignments, class notes or other student resources. Students can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google apps (such as Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube and Picasa), and free-form content. Creating a site together is as easy as editing a document. In addition, users can actually edit a document together in real time. The administrator/teacher always control who has access, whether it's just him/herself, team/class, or the whole organization. Individual students or teachers can get started by simply inputting their school e-mail address.

Like other elements of Google Apps, Google Sites will be free and requires no installation, maintenance or upgrades (for education and nonprofits). All information is stored on Google's secure servers and can be accessed on any computer connected to the Internet.

One advantage of Google Sites--as far as collaboration is concerned--is that it allows groups of users to easily create and edit Web documents that include text, images, videos, spreadsheets and other types of documents. From my experience with SharePoint, including multimedia such as videos on SharePoint blog and wiki pages is not an easy task.

Although many feel that Google doesn't have a chance against megamonster Microsoft, I think that the more alternatives we have the better. Google Sites takes wiki collaboration one step forward.

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