"It was probably the toughest decision I've ever had to make because VMware was doing fabulously at the time, and Google was taking off," Sheth says. "One of the things that really attracted me was this idea of being able to go into a completely new market with a lot of great technology at Google."
Sheth's charter was "to figure out how we can take some of the other technologies within Google, specifically around collaboration and communication, and bring it into the enterprise." Sheth was joined by enterprise division leaders Matthew Glotzbach and Dave Girouard when he proposed Gmail For Your Domain to Brin, Page, and Schmidt.
Although that first meeting ended in frustration, it was only temporary. "In May of the following year I brought it back to them, and said, 'Let's do a cloud-based hosted infrastructure for businesses [instead of a physical appliance] and start with Gmail, but as we have more applications we'll bring more apps into the suite,'" Sheth says.
Gmail For Your Domain launched in an invitation-only beta in February 2006, letting organizations -- mainly small businesses and universities -- use an entirely Web-based email system with a personalized domain name. The expanded Google Apps for Your Domain launched later in 2006 and by February 2007 Google had created an enterprise version of Google Apps. Another key moment in 2007 was the acquisition of Postini, which helped Google incorporate spam filtering and virus blocking into the Apps suite.
Today, Google Apps includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites, and several other applications in a cost-friendly package of $50 per user per year. The individual apps are still free to consumers.
"More than 2 million businesses run Google Apps," the company http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html ">boasts, but Google is still a long way from displacing Microsoft as the king of the business email and collaboration market. An IDC survey in July 2009 showed that nearly 97 percent of businesses were using Microsoft Office, and 77 percent were using only Microsoft Office. Nearly 20 percent reported extensive use of Google Docs, but not at the exclusion of other tools.
Google's adoption figures have likely risen since then, but even Google's marketing has at various times described Google Apps as a technology that is complementary to Microsoft Office, rather than one that could completely replace it.
There was some controversy recently when Google reportedly began stripping Windows out of its own offices in favor of Linux, Macs and Google's own forthcoming Chrome OS. But Sheth says numerous Google employees still use Microsoft Office and have no plans to switch. At Google's offices in Mountain View, Calif., "we have people using [Microsoft] Office, we have people using exclusively [Google] Docs, and we have people using a mix. It really depends on the user," Sheth says.
People who tout Microsoft's capabilities over Google's are likely to cite several reasons, such as difficulty importing Microsoft documents into Google Apps without losing formatting, and disparity between the features of spreadsheet creators.