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Google reacts to Office 365 momentum with beefier Apps suite

Juan Carlos Perez | June 26, 2014
It's called Drive for Work, costs twice as much as Apps for Business, and includes unlimited cloud storage for all users. Sorry, Microsoft.

"There are no asterisks on the storage," Johnston said. "It's truly unlimited at Google scale. We don't want customers to spend time worrying about storage."

Drive for Work also adds IT management features, such as the ability for admins to control which users can install the Drive desktop sync client. IT admins also get more granular audit features, so that they can more closely track actions users take on Drive files, like moving, deleting or sharing them internally and externally. Drive for Work includes an API (application programming interface) for the audit functionality so third-party developers can access it from their own tools and applications.

Another goody included with Drive for Work is Vault, Google's email archiving and compliance tool, which is available to Apps for Business customers for an extra fee. However, the version of Vault included with Drive for Work has a broader scope beyond email messages: it covers all files stored in Drive.

Drive for Work, like Apps for Business, is intended for businesses. Google will decide later if, as it does with Apps, it offers versions of Drive for Work for schools, government agencies and non-profits.

Google is also revamping Docs, its office productivity cloud suite, which includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software, and is available free to individuals with Google accounts and also as part of Google Apps and Drive for Work.

QuickOffice, which Google bought two years ago, has been merged into Docs, giving Docs users native capabilities to open and edit Microsoft Office files created with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The new functionality is available now when Docs is used on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. Support for iOS devices is coming soon.

Another enhancement to Docs announced Wednesday is the availability of the Slides presentation app for iOS and Android, following the release earlier of the Docs word processor and Sheets spreadsheet apps for those two mobile OSes.

Finally, in order to increase usage of Docs' real-time, multi-user editing capabilities, Google has added a feature called "suggested edits" for changes made by people who aren't the document's creator. These edits will appear in a different color, so that the document's author can consider them. The "suggested edits" feature is available in the word processing app and may be added to the other two later.

It's also now possible for collaborators to add comments about the document on a side column, so that there can be a sort of running conversation among participants.

Overall, the improvements in the suite are aimed at "making Docs, Sheets and Slides easier to use," said Ryan Tabone, Google Docs' director of product management.

Docs was seen as an innovative product back in 2007, but in recent years Google has been criticized by many who feel it hasn't made enough improvements to the suite. Microsoft has also put significant pressure on it with Office Online, a Web-based suite with lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.


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