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Google may be struggling to win support for raising the H-1B visa cap in the United States, but the search company is having better luck bringing business customers over to its online communication and collaboration service, Google Apps.
Shortly after Google Apps launched in February, Google said more than 100,000 customers had signed up for the service. Since then, Google has been adding new business customers at a rate of 1,000 per day, according to Rishi Chandra, product manager for Google Apps.
And that momentum appears likely to continue with the addition of a new e-mail migration feature that will make it easier for organizations to make the move to Google Apps Premier and Education Editions.
The advantage of this feature is that organizations can very easily make stored e-mail searchable and accessible from Google Apps' browser interface.
"Now businesses and schools can spend less time worrying about 'maintaining infrastructure' and focus more on the things that matter most to them -- like health care or educating students," said Google engineer Vikaram Gupta in a blog post.
And this may help Microsoft spend more time worrying about retaining its Exchange customers.
Google Apps, which includes Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Start Page, received several other improvements Monday. This is in keeping with Google's strategy of incremental product improvements, said Chandra, who noted that Google Apps had seen some 30 new features and updates in the four months since it was introduced.
"At the end of the day, Google Apps is about innovation," said Chandra. "You don't have to wait for a major release to get these features. It happens in real time. ... It's taking the speed and innovation of the consumer world and applying it to the business world."
Such relentless change has the potential to leave users lost, but Chandra insists Google's focus on the user experience means that new features are easy to understand and don't require new training.
Google Apps now features an option that allows administrators to enable address book sharing, which makes the user's contacts accessible to others in that domain.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets gained the ability to create charts in a spreadsheet.
Gmail users can now send attachments of up to 20 Mbytes, up from 10 Mbytes.
Google Talk now supports group chats. Users of the service can invite multiple contacts to converse via the Google Talk gadget on their Google Apps home pages.
And Google Docs & Spreadsheets is about to get a new look to make document management and search more efficient. "We planning to shortly release a refresh of the UI [user interface] for Docs & Spreadsheets," said Chandra. "In the consumer world, most users don't have a huge number of documents, but in the business world you really do have tons and tons of documents. So we wanted to provide a UI that allows you to much easier document management."