Google goes after the enterprise, but at I/O, proof is MIA

Google exec says company is increasingly focused on building for the enterprise

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Google executives say the company isn't the consumer-oriented business of its youth.

Now, they say, Google is focused on the enterprise.

But some users and industry analysts attending Google I/O here this week said they didn't see evidence of a business focus at the developer conference.

"You don't see it in the announcements. You don't really see it in the sessions," said Jorel Perez, a San Antonio-based mobile web developer who works for a Fortune 500 financial services company. "When we go to a conference, we have to say why we're going and why it will be beneficial. I would like to be able to hear something here that I could go back and say, 'Here's something that will immediately bring value across the enterprise.' That's just not going to happen."

More than 7,000 developers, industry analysts and press attended Google's annual conference to hear about what the company is working on.

There were presentations on digital personal assistants with Google Assistant and Google Home, virtual reality and an artificial intelligence-driven chat app called Allo and a video app named Duo. There were updates to the Android mobile operating system and news about a custom chip for its machine-learning systems.

Many of those announcements were focused squarely on the consumer.

While artificial intelligence, Android and Chrome all have enterprise uses, there was a dearth of discussion on the enterprise in the keynote speeches and in the sessions that followed.

"I really didn't feel like the enterprise was the star of the show," said Chris Plachta, an Android developer who works for a Chicago-based Fortune 500 company. "But I did see some improvements in some of the enterprise offerings, like Android for Work. And I see many of the new cloud offerings could make their way into the enterprise."

On the other hand, it was somewhat frustrating for a developer who works for a large company not to hear much news about what Google is doing for the enterprise, he said.

"At Google I/O, we get to see so many awesome new innovations, and there are so many things that I would like to start using immediately, but if Google doesn't make it easy to either integrate with or replace what many large businesses currently have, it makes it difficult to convince the business why it's worthwhile… They're still mainly focused on the consumer."

Google, however, sees the enterprise as a growing part of its business.

When Rajen Sheth, a product manager of Google Enterprise, joined the Enterprise team 12 years ago, there were 25 people. Today, he told Computerworld, there are thousands.

"Enterprise has become a core part of things," said Sheth, who declined to say what percentage of Google is focused on the consumer side. "Enterprise has become significant, but we're just at the beginning. We started with Google Search Appliance. It was a fairly small business, and then we added Google Apps and it became more substantial. Now we're adding cloud and Android and Chrome, and that takes us to another level."

Just about everything Google does, according to Sheth, is enterprise-related.

"Our philosophy is how can we tap into the overall technology and bring it into the enterprise?" he said. "A lot of the stuff they talked about in Android is going to be tremendously valuable… And machine learning -- that whole concept isn't just consumer-based. With Android Chrome, we're at the beginning of what we can do in the enterprise."

Even Google Home, a smart device designed to do voice-controlled searches, play music, control entertainment and order pizza, is a technology that could one day be reworked for the enterprise, allowing workers to do hands-free searches and give commands to other devices, Sheth said.

However, Sheth said Google isn't only reworking consumer products to make them useful to large companies. Much of what the company is working on now is for the enterprise first.

"Ten years ago, we were building for the consumer, and then if something could be pushed into the enterprise, then that's what they did," he said. "[Today], we're building platforms for the enterprise and for consumers. Within Chrome, we probably put more emphasis on enterprise than consumer because that's where the market is."

To Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, Google is still heavily focused on the consumer with much less of its vision going to the enterprise.

"I'm thinking it's still 90/10 consumer over enterprise," he said. "Look at where they put the weight of their announcements and the number of launches and products and services they have in the consumer business."

He added that the opening keynote from CEO Sindar Pinchai was focused heavily on the consumer.

"That set the stage for the entire show," Moorhead said. "Allo. Knock Knock. Virtual reality. It was all consumer. There were no major announcements made for business at the [company's] largest annual developer show."

However, Moorheard and others agree that Google is developing products and services for the enterprise in such area as the cloud, Chrome and Google Docs.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he expects to see Google turn more and more to the enterprise.

"I think Google probably sees the enterprise as the next mountain for them to climb," Olds said. "They've pretty much conquered the consumer market or, at least, have gained the lion's share of the attention, mindshare, and revenue… When a company gets as large as Google is, it gets harder to find new opportunities that are large enough to move the needle when it comes to revenue and profit. The enterprise market is one of those opportunities for Google."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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