The 2009 Rising Stars - Google

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You know Google is more than just a search engine. The company keeps expanding its purview, seeping into the CRM space a dizzying number of ways, from Web analytics to its suite of officeproductivity applications. (See our January 2009 cover story,"The Google-ization of CRM," for more.)

With Microsoft Office squarely in its sights, Google introduced the premier edition of Google Apps for $50 per user, per year-offering a 99.9 percent uptime reliability guarantee; 25 gigabytes of email storage per employee; mobile email, calendar, and instant messaging; information security and compliance; and full administrative and data control. The company estimates it has more than 1.75 million enterprise customers on Google Apps (it declines to break down figures between premier and standard editions), with 3,000 more businesses signing up every day.

As with any CRM deployment, though-and make no mistake, this is building to a CRM deployment-there have been issues, including at least three significant downtime incidents. But then, in May, Google unveiled what many believe could cause complete upheaval in the cloud-computing space once it becomes generally available: Google Wave. Essentially, it's a next-generation collaboration platform that can unite email, instant messaging, blogs, and wikis-and, with Google Voice, perhaps your voicemails-into a single conversation. According to a blogpost by Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler,"the conversations...look like email on steroids."He also wrote that "it's a guarantee that Google Wave will appear in Google Apps sometime soon." Jeremiah Owyang, another analyst at Forrester (and one of this year's Influential Leaders; see page 26),wrote that Google Wave will reach your workforce without the need for your technology department. Take that, CRM vendors!

Google Wave promises huge changes for businesses large and small, says Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of consultancy CRM Essentials. For now, though, it's just that-promise. "The potential could be great, since the company already has all these good pieces, and if it comes together the way we hope it could be a real big deal for small businesses," he says. "It's just too early to tell. It'll also be interesting to see how this plays with Zoho. It may actually cause the company to rethink some of the things it's doing."

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