Google announced two new services that are aimed squarely at helping businesses access information and share it internally, similar to what Microsoft’s SharePoint product offers.
With its new Springboard application, it gives employees at companies subscribed to Google Apps for Work a unified search box for finding just about anything, including files in Google Drive, emails in Gmail and contacts.
Google Springboard & New Sites announced
Springboard, which has been in testing with “a small set of customers,” is a little like Google Now for enterprise workers. That’s to say that it offers a single search interface which utilizes artificial intelligence to surface information within a user’s suite of Google products — such as Google Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs and more.
That’s important because, according to Prabhakar Raghavan, VP of Engineering for Google Apps, “the average knowledge worker currently spends the equivalent of one full day a week searching for and gathering information.”
Beyond search, Springboard also provides “useful and actionable information and recommendations” to users throughout their work day.
The company also unveiled the beta version of a revamped Google Sites, which is aimed at letting less sophisticated users inside a business build websites that can be used to share information internally. The new Sites gives users templates and an easy to use editor. The editor is supposed to help create good-looking sites for communicating things like what a particular team is up to at a company with far-flung offices.
These two products compete directly with tools like Microsoft SharePoint, which serves as both a repository for data and as the hosting platform for websites that can be used to communicate internally at a company.
In addition to searching for information, Springboard will also display files and contacts for users based on machine learning algorithms that are informed by what calendar events users have on their schedule and a variety of other signals. Users can now see that on the web and in an Android app. In the future, Google will also have an iOS app available for Springboard.
Springboard is an extension of Google’s other enterprise search efforts, including search features inside the individual products that Springboard pulls from. What makes the new service so interesting is that it’s a one-stop shop for users to try and find what they’re looking for.
Ryan Tabone, a director of product management at Google, said in an interview that at this point, Springboard only connects to Google services, but that the company is evaluating what services it will connect to in the future, including potentially connecting to data stored on premises.
Finally, in terms of presentation, Google Sites has been revamped so that the content fits to any kind of screen, be it a smartphone, laptop or 30-inch monitor.
Like Google Docs, users can invite other people to work together on a Site at the same time. The software will show a marker where each person is working, along with live-updating changes as they tweak a page.
The company is investing to build something that competes at least in part with SharePoint. It’s still early days for both products, which are just entering beta, so its still early to compare it to SharePoint.
As the company gathers feedback from existing testers, it will expand the program further and further, making changes as it goes.
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