Google and Capgemini have formed a partnership around Google Apps: Capgemini is offering its desktop infrastructure and application support services to enterprise customers of Google Apps Premium Edition, while Capgemini will also resell Google Apps.
Capgemini's desktop services include delivery management, transitions management, integration, standard operating environment builds and patching, first and second line service desk, and self-help services. An important element of Capgemini's services here is the archiving and storage of e-mail for compliance (Google itself does not offer this service, though it is in the process of buying Postini, which does).
There are two very large questions that arise from this announcement: will this give Google a real foot-hold on the enterprise desktop, and how does it affect the IT services landscape?
To answer the first question, we have to look at Google Apps, and how it is enhanced by the services being offered by Capgemini.
There are some aspects that make Google Apps very attractive to large enterprises. For a start, Google Apps will get them off the upgrade cycle. No need to upgrade the hardware, operating systems, servers and desktop software to upgrade to the latest office suite - all you need are desktops with network connections and browsers.
Even if you have outsourced these issues to someone like Capgemini, you will still be paying for them and will inevitably see some of the disruption they cause - for example, having to upgrade older desktops to support Vista and Office 2007. Indeed, the next two to three years offer an opportunity for Google Docs and competing services because of the Vista/Office 2007 upgrade.
But there are a number of downsides with Google Apps. Looking at the application itself, these are three-fold. Firstly, the applications on offer from Google are not as fully-functioned as those from Microsoft and IBM. The word processor in particular is pretty lightweight.
Secondly, there is no off-line capability with Google Docs, and most laptop users would expect to be able to edit documents while on the move. Thirdly it still has no graphical/presentation capabilities, though Google is working on this.
However, our main objection is that Google has just gone with the existing model of documents - with separate word-processing, spreadsheet and graphical/presentation modules. As we have said elsewhere, we think the world is ready for something better.
Turning to the IT services perspective, we see this announcement as important both for Capgemini and the industry as a whole. From the point of view of Capgemini's desktop support services, these are aimed at very large user organisations that have desktop applications from either Microsoft or IBM, and Google Apps becomes a third line of service. This is effectively both an offensive move (capture market share from slower-moving competitors) and defensive (if your services are going to be cannibalised by new offerings, better to be the first with the new offerings).
There are wider implications for the industry. First, outsourcing contracts (and IT services in general) are not usually about cutting-edge technologies but really about mainstream technologies. We therefore see this as good news for clients of companies such as Capgemini who are exploring more innovative technologies.
Second, desktop management has become a bit of a commodity that generates thin margins. Capgemini also thinks Google Apps is helping to differentiate its desktop management service offering from competitors - it will, but probably not for very long as this is unlikely to remain an exclusive partnership.
There is a widespread view that software as a service (SaaS) takes business away from IT services vendors. However, while it does change things - re-arranging some of the cost equations for instance - SaaS gives vendors an opportunity to reduce costs, improve margins, enter new markets or see off conventional competitors.
For more information on the impact of SaaS on IT services vendors, see Ovum's report, 'SaaS threat and opportunity for IT services vendors', at http://store.ovum.com
. Ovum is a ComputerWire sister publication and part of the Datamonitor Group.