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5 Predictions for Google Apps in 2014

David Politis

December 19, 2013

5 minute read

2014

20142013 was an eventful year for Google Apps. A number of notable organizations moved to Google, including Whirlpool, the U.S. Army and the City of Boston, Google Hangouts were revamped and reintroduced as a unified communications system and, most recently, Google Sheets was rebuilt from the ground up.

Google Apps has certainly seen tremendous growth in terms of adoption and functionality and we expect 2014 to be an even bigger year for the platform. Here are our top 5 predictions for 2014.

1. Drive matures in a major way and more organizations move away from Microsoft Office

Adoption of the cloud is fully underway with many organizations even implementing a cloud-first IT strategy. It’s no longer a question of “if,” but “when” the market reaches 100% cloud adoption. In 2013, a number of huge corporations and government entities moved to Google Apps, showing that the platform is truly capable of handling a wide array of use cases, requirements and security concerns.

In the past year, adoption of cloud collaboration tools like Box and the introduction of Dropbox for Business put collaboration at the forefront of enterprise IT. We also saw best practices for Drive emerge within the Google Apps admin community and security tools provided by applications like FlashPanel gave admins the granularity needed to roll out Drive on a large scale.

In 2014 look for broader adoption of Drive with more organizations trading in shadow IT (like personal instances of Dropbox) for Google’s competitive offering. There will also be a wider array of Drive connected apps, with more independent software vendors realizing the power of Drive – both in terms of functionality and publicity. The need for a true document management solution should escalate in lockstep with increased collaboration, bringing attention to incumbent providers and drawing in new players.

This uptick in Drive usage will correspond with a move by many organizations to deprecate their use of Microsoft Office. Major upgrades to Sheets and Presentations and the introduction of Quickoffice as a free product all point to the maturity of Docs and Google’s willingness to invest in the product.

Google’s recent overhaul of Sheets puts the app nearly on par with Microsoft Excel, a notoriously potent sticking point for Office. Now that Sheets can compete feature for feature with Excel for 99% of use-cases, Office will lose some of its staying power.

In order for more organizations to fully deprecate Office though, user training and change management will be key.

How will this impact BetterCloud?

At BetterCloud, we already operate completely in the cloud on Drive and Docs. But, we know that many organizations find it difficult to move away from on-premise products like Microsoft Office and other cloud collaboration tools like Box. In 2014, we’ll work hard to bring more security and management capabilities for Drive to FlashPanel, including regular expression searches and more.

2. 2014 will be a big year for Google Hangouts

With changes made to Hangouts – both chat and video calling – in the last year including HD video calls, we’ve slowly started to phase out traditional web conferencing services like GoToMeeting and WebEx at BetterCloud. In 2014 we predict this move to continue on a broader scale.

Next year, we expect Hangouts to emerge as a viable web conferencing tool for the enterprise. In fact, David Hoff, CTO at Cloud Sherpas, imagines that the newly released LG Chromebase, equipped with mic and webcam, could serve as a physical terminal for Hangouts. A hardware terminal along with increased improvements to the quality and reliability of Hangouts could mean more companies move away from traditional web conferencing providers – after all, you’re already paying for Hangouts with Google Apps so you might as well make use of the feature.

Hangouts might be the major appeal for Google+ now, but in 2014 we predict that Google+ will take on a new role as an enterprise social network. Google steadily rolled out new features to make this a reality over the last year with the introduction of restricted communities and the new Google+ Domains API, which allows companies like BetterCloud to build security and management tools for Google+. These features make Google+ better suited for the enterprise and increasingly appealing for organizations already on Google Apps.

How will this impact BetterCloud?

As noted, we’ve already begun to phase out WebEx and GoToMeeting preferring Hangouts for most video calls. In 2014, we plan to continue this trend, relying on Hangouts more and more for complicated use cases like demos and webinars.

We’ve also actively been using Google+ communities since October as an enterprise social network. Team communities have emerged in place of Google Groups and mass emails and we’ll likely see more team-specific communities adopted across BetterCloud in 2014.

3. The Chromebook ecosystem matures

homepage-promoWith Chromebooks (aside from the Pixel) pretty much cheaper than most smartphones, we predict steady adoption of the netbook-like devices to continue in 2014. In fact, three of the top ten best selling laptops on Amazon.com are Chromebooks.

The EDU realm has already caught on to the trend, but with more organizations adopting a cloud-first approach to IT, Chromebooks will pop up more and more in the enterprise. Device management capabilities available through the Google Apps Admin Console make these laptops all the more compelling.

Google gives enterprise Chromebook admins the ability to pre-load, whitelist and / or blacklist applications, prohibit access to certain websites and much more. Chromebooks are not only affordable, they make sense in an enterprise environment where more often than not, user data is stored in the cloud. And the new Chromebase desktop from LG is yet another addition to Google’s increasingly aggressive hardware play.

How will this impact BetterCloud?

Since Google I/O, my Chromebook Pixel hasn’t left my side. As our non-engineering team continues to expand, we’ll likely invest in more Chromebooks for new team members in 2014.

4. AWS Will Face Stiff Competition from Google Compute Engine

At the beginning of December, Google announced that Compute Engine, its infrastructure-as-a-service offering and direct competitor to Amazon’s AWS, was available for general use, with pricing and SLAs made public.

With over 4 million applications already running on Compute Engine, including offerings from Rovio, Snapchat and Khan Academy, Compute is paced to expand rapidly in 2014.

How will this impact BetterCloud?

FlashPanel is built on Google’s PaaS offering, App Engine. We’re excited to see where Google will go with Compute Engine and look forward to learning how we can leverage Compute going forward.

5. Year of the Google Apps Marketplace

Last, but certainly not least, we think 2014 will be the year the Google Apps Marketplace gets its turn in the spotlight. Recent changes to the installation process for third-party apps puts Marketplace applications front and center. And with adoption of the Google Apps suite escalating, more organizations are discovering a greater need for cloud applications that complement the Google Apps experience.

While the Marketplace itself will continue to evolve in 2014, we also expect Marketplace ISVs to mature significantly. BetterCloud, Insightly, Yesware and others raised significant capital from major VCs this year and we predict other Marketplace leaders to follow suit in 2014.

How will this impact BetterCloud?

Changes to the Marketplace in 2013 and rapid maturation of FlashPanel and other Marketplace applications makes the Google Apps Marketplace a crucial facet to the continued success and adoption of Google Apps. Look for the Marketplace to play an even bigger role in the Apps ecosystem in 2014.

What are your predictions for Google Apps in 2014?

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