Executive Summary:
Google Apps is an office application suite offered as a Web-based software as service (SaaS). You can personalize your Google Apps Start Page with an online control panel and build Web pages with Web Creator. The major applications in Google Apps are Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, and you can also add Google Gadgets to your pages.

If you’ve been using Google only as a search engine, you might be surprised by some of the features it’s now offering. Google Apps, an emerging competitor to Microsoft Office, has definitely grabbed Microsoft’s attention. In fact, Microsoft’s move to Windows Live and its new Software Plus Services strategy are certainly motivated by Google’s recent moves. Google’s Web-based suite offers a free, limited-feature Standard Edition as well as the fullfeatured Premier Edition for $50 per user per year. Here are the most important features of Google Apps.

10. Internet domain integration—Google Apps Standard Edition is free if you already own an Internet domain name. You simply verify that you’re the owner, and you can integrate Google Apps with your domain. If you don’t own a domain name, Google offers domain registration for $10 per year.

9. Single sign-on and directory integration— Google Apps makes use of Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to permit single signon (SSO) capabilities with a variety of different LDAP-compatible authentication services. For more information about Google Apps’ SSO capabilities, refer to code.google.com/apis/apps/sso/saml_reference_ implementation.html.

8. Start Page—The Google Apps Start Page is the user’s entry point into Google Apps. The Start Page can be customized to provide your organization’s logo and content. In addition, you can add many different custom features using add-ons called Google Gadgets.

7. Google Gadgets—A few of the available Google Gadgets include a search function, an MP3 player, a live TV feed, a custom RSS reader, and even the Bejeweled and PacMan games. You can create your own Google Gadgets with the Google API. You’ll find the list of available Google Gadgets at www.google.com/ig/ directory?synd=open.

6. Control panel—You manage Google Apps with a Web-based control panel, which lets you set up and manage user accounts, configure user sharing permissions, and migrate your existing email to Gmail. You can also brand your site with your own logos and color schemes.

5. Page Creator—To help you build and customize your site, Google Apps provides Page Creator, a Web-based graphical Web page designer with single-click Web page publishing. Page Creator Web pages are compatible with both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

4. Gmail—One of the stalwart applications in the Google Apps suite is Gmail. Google Apps Premier Edition allows 25GB of storage for each Gmail account, and Google Apps provides tools for email routing and migration. Google has recently added Postini for security and message recovery. Gmail supports POP3 and MAPI connectivity.

3. Google Talk—Google’s IM component, Google Talk, is integrated with Gmail, letting you initiate chat sessions from email messages. Google Talk is designed primarily for use with other Google Talk clients, but it’s built using the open Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), which lets it interoperate with other IM clients. Google Talk also features file transfer, conversation logging, and voice communications using VoIP.

2. Google Calendar—Another staple in the Google Apps suite is Google Calendar. Based on Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax), Google Calendar offers a rich end-user experience, letting you make appointments and schedule meetings and notifications. Unlike Microsoft Office Outlook with Microsoft Exchange Server, Google Calendar can publish public calendars. Google Calendar also provides cool Short Message Service (SMS) scheduling and notifications that can send text messages to mobile devices.

1. Google Docs—As the keystone of Google Apps, Google Docs facilitates real-time document sharing and collaboration. Multiple, geographically disparate users can share and even simultaneously edit documents. Google Docs has long provided word processing and spreadsheet functionality, working with .doc, .rtf, .xls, and .csv file formats. Google recently added the ability to use the .ppt document format as well, so you can now collaborate on and share presentations with Google Docs.