Paris, France-based Capgemini will provide consulting, integration, helpdesk, and support services around Google's Apps Premium Edition offering which was launched in February and covers the search engine giant's word processing, spreadsheet, email, messaging, and Start Page applications.
The partnership is not exclusive. Capgemini already manages more than 1 million desktops worldwide as part of its outsourcing contracts, and has a close relationship with Microsoft. Richard Payling, director of sales channels at Capgemini, told Computer Business Review that the company would deliver Google Apps as a complementary offering to its existing managed desktop services.
He said: "It doesn't have to be one or the other...Office productivity tools have moved away from a one-size-fits-all model because companies have realized that not all users need access to everything… We want to give customers freedom of choice rather than being prescriptive."
Customers will pay Capgemini an annual fee for a managed service, the exact price of which will be calculated based on what services the client requires, the level of helpdesk support, the duration of the contract, and the number of users being supported.
The two companies said that while Google will continue to host the applications, Capgemini will help to provide the secure, managed services wrap that most IT departments require. Payling said: "We are helping to make Google Apps enterprise-class, by providing services such as back-up, single sign-on and security, and migrating data to the Google environment, while ensuring that it is compliant."
Capgemini said a lot of people within its own organization are using Google Apps and it expects to announce its first client in the next few months. It added that the alliance with Google highlights its willingness to address to the software-as-a-service model, which many believe will have a negative impact on the IT services community as Web-based software delivery removes the need for a lot of installation and integration work.
Andrew Gough, UK alliance manager at Capgemini, said: "We see SaaS as both a challenge and an opportunity. We have worked with SAP in the area of SaaS for some time, and clients will still need someone to help them tackle issues such as security and archiving."
We won't be able to judge the success of this alliance for some time as Google Apps Premium Edition has only been available for just over six months and the two companies are just beginning to take their joint proposition to market.
Capgemini is the first services partner that Google has recruited to help it establish Google Apps as a key player in the enterprise office applications market. And it is an essential move with more and more clients outsourcing their desktop estates as they become increasingly commoditized, and users look to take advantage of the centralized management and support functions that the likes of Capgemini can deliver.
Google argues that it doesn't lack credibility in the enterprise space as a software provider, but it will only benefit from having a major services organization such as Capgemini offer a robust support layer around its applications, at a time when compliance and security are top of most CIOs' lists of priorities. Google won't make major inroads into Microsoft's dominant position in the office space, but it may pick up business with organizations with a number of low-power users.
One of the big selling points of Google Apps against Microsoft, and also Sun's StarOffice, is that it is internet-based, with users gaining access through a web browser without having to install the software locally. Google also talked up its collaboration tools which enable users to share and publish data in real-time, while it may also be attractive for organizations with a lot of low-power users, who may occasionally need to access applications such as email, but don't justify the cost of investing in a full office suite.
So why Capgemini? It is not the biggest desktop management company in the world - IBM Global Services supports over 4 million desktops, while EDS manages more than 3 million. But Google tells us that it was impressed by Capgemini's commitment to the SaaS model and its understanding of the growing impact of consumer technology in the work environment.
The pricing model that Capgemini will use is a further step down the road towards the utility-style charging that the software-as-a-service movement is working towards where users pay only for what they use rather than a flat, multi-year license fee. It is not yet at the level where clients use and pay for the service in the same way that they do their electricity or water, but the two companies said they will look to "industrialize" the offering in coming years.