We sat down with Google Enterprise Vice President Amit Singh in his Mountain View office this week to discuss the direction and plans of the Google Enterprise team.  While he did not share the all-important revenue numbers with us, he did shine a light on Google Apps’ impressive growth across all of its markets.

Singh was a two-decade alumnus of Oracle when he came with many, many others to the GooglePlex last March to help Dave Girouard and the Enterprise Team sell to big business.  Oracle announced this week very disappointing earnings that has thrown the stock price off almost 15 percent.  Meanwhile, Google Apps is growing like gangbusters; Perhaps Singh’s timing is good.

9to5Google: Hi, Amit. I assume we’re here to talk about your big GM announcement.

Singh: We have no big announcements today but look forward to a whole assortment of announcements in mid-January.  We tend to announce new customers after implementation rather than after sign up. Here’s a hint: we’re growing very big in South America…and Asia, where we’re building three monster data centers in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore that should all be online in the next 12-18 months.

9to5Google: Speaking on that, Apps has had a pretty solid year.  It seems like you have a big announcement almost every week and new features added to Google Docs every day.

Singh: It has been incredible across the board. We are seeing double the daily signups and about 5,000 organizations per day vs. 3,000 per day at the beginning of the year [those numbers also seems to point to bigger signups] and a lot of those are paying users.

9to5Google: You mentioned the new Hong Kong data center and it appears that Google’s plan for China is to deal with Hong Kong’s system.  But what about users in China? Certainly international organizations have to be wary of Google’s relationship with greater China.

Singh: On the record, I can’t go beyond our 2010 statement, which states a number of things: There are ways like SSH Tunnels, VPN-ing and Proxies to ensure disruptions don’t hit the business.  Also, Google doesn’t host any servers in Mainland China, so they aren’t subject to search by the government there.  That being said…Gmail sees almost no disruptions in China.

9to5Google: Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer said something like 98 percent of the times we [Microsoft] go up against Google Enterprise, we win.  Clearly, that seems to fly in the face of real world numbers.  What say you?

Singh: As I stated at the time, it is hard for me to see any possible way that is true.  How are we doubling our deployments if they are winning 98 percent of the time?  As I said, we’ll have some announcements next month, which will show another side of that story.  We’d love to see their numbers…any numbers…to prove this ’98 percent’ stat.

For instance, in Japan, we converted Softbank’s 30,000 users.  Softbank is said to be Microsoft’s largest reseller in Japan.  If they go Google, who won’t?

As far as Office is concerned, we view our Docs product now as something that over 80 percent of all workers can do all of their work on.  As we improve things like offline access and our presentation product, we see this going near 95 percent.  We view traditional Office products as something like Photoshop Creative Suite – niche products only needed by a few specialized roles in the company.  In that respect, we are making it easier and easier for those Office users to integrate with the rest of the apps environment with products like Google Cloud Connect.

9to5Google: How are third party vendors doing in the Google Apps marketplace?

We are seeing some incredible successes there; though, we don’t have access to their numbers.  The Market is strictly a discovery tool. We don’t put our hand in their pot.  If you measure success by getting bought out by a bigger company, a huge amount of Apps market companies have been purchased over just the past 30 days.  Here’s a list of those who we are aware of, there are likely others:

  • Get Satisfaction on Aug. 3
  • Etacts by Salesforce on Dec. 21, 2010
  • DimDim by Salesforce on Jan. 6
  • Tripit by Concur (also a Marketplace vendor) on Jan. 13
  • Manymoon by Salesforce on Feb. 1
  • Gist by RIM on Feb. 14
  • Bantam Live by Constant Contact (also a Marketplace vendor) on Feb. 16
  • Tungle by RIM on April 27
  • SlideRocket by VMWare on April 28
  • Pixetell on May 2
  • Offisync by Jive
  • Assistly by Salesforce on Sept. 21
  • SuccessFactors – SAP on Dec. 3
  • Rypple – Salesforce on Dec. 15

9to5Google: What are the major barriers of entry.  In other words, what is stopping companies from going Google?

Singh: Change is always hard, especially when your job is on the line and the status quo is safe. Also, legacy policy always slow things down. Certifications help communicate certain assurances to customers, but they only tell part of the story. Most were not developed with cloud infrastructure in mind. Google Apps has secured several important certifications while developing our own security technology specific to cloud computing.

9to5Google: It sounds like Google Enterprise is doing well in business, but you also operate in Government and Education.  How are those two areas growing? (As an aside: here is Berkeley’s decision matrix that eventually led to a Google Apps win.)

Singh: I originally learned about Google Apps from my son and I think it is incredibly important to introduce our future customers to our product in their formidable years. Facebook worked pretty well spreading in this way and Apple has had success pushing hard in education, as well. You aren’t going to install a clunky Exchange Server in your business after using a more powerful collaborative platform during college.  Young entrepreneurs should be familiar with many platforms…not just the Office products that came installed on their computers.

As for numbers, we currently run the messaging platform of two-thirds of the nation’s top 1o0 schools; we are signing up whole states like Wyoming and the educational systems of New York and Utah.  We’re just growing everywhere.  Again, we’ll have some announcements in January. [South America?]

9to5Google: Speaking of Facebook, Google Apps enterprise users are now part of Google Plus.  What kind of integration do you see there?  Do you see Plus integration bumping up against LinkedIn?

Singh: We are building tools for business, so it isn’t unlikely that some of our features will overlap with existing players.  However, our goal is simply to build the best products.  If I had to point to the biggest changes for 2012, I would point to Social. We really have some exciting plans for social context on Apps.  From Google Plus pages to connecting with customers, vendors and fellow employees, there is so much work going on which will make our products so much better and our customers much more productive.

9to5Google: Thanks for your time, Amit. We’re looking forward to seeing what is in store.

(Image via Wired)

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