Google has updated its Google Apps Control Panel to sport a new, Google+ inspired user interface that allows users to customize the dashboard and create a different, more-personalized experience, as BetterCloud, a company based on Google Apps that I’ve written about twice before, has discovered. Though by itself this is probably about as exciting as a bowl of over-cooked oatmeal (sans strawberries) it shows three things:
Google cares about its enterprise customers. Google is, largely, a consumer-facing company. Its most popular products, from Gmail and Android to Search and Drive, all appeal to individuals first and enterprise users second, leading many to question its commitment to non-consumer products. But — and this is a “but” even Sir Mix-a-Lot would be proud of — Google has begun to show that it takes its enterprise products seriously.
Updating the main interface businesses use to access Google Apps is a pretty good indicator that the company isn’t going to leave those customers high and dry. (Not that that meant anything for Reader — ha!) Nor should it, as the company is said to reap some $1 billion per year from its enterprise offerings. While that isn’t a lot to a company whose primary business is selling advertisements against consumer-facing products, it’s not exactly chump change, either.
Yes, everything Google makes is going to look like Google+ Practically every design element in this update looks like it was ripped directly from Google’s itty-bitty social network. The new Google Apps Control Panel is merely the latest in a string of graphical updates that unite the Google product family under one cohesive design language. (Translation: Get used to whitespace and red, guys.)
While some might take issue with Google’s new design language, which emphasizes blank space, smooth colors, and a neat grid of icons — all of which are horrible, horrible things, I swear — it seems like Google won’t be changing its course any time soon.
And, really, that’s okay. There is no reason for Google to emulate its main enterprise competitors — Microsoft and Amazon — as it builds its own business products. Google has finally gotten good at consumer-facing design; marrying that quality with the power of its enterprise suite is a good thing, as it allows users to take what they’ve learned from using Google on their own time and apply it to their work.
Chris Dixon described the gap between enterprise and consumer software way back in 2011 thusly:
Why does most enterprise technology feel like it is a decade behind consumer technology? For the same reason our health care system is broken. The “user” isn’t the same person as the “buyer”. In enterprise software the user is generally a non-IT person but the buyer is usually, at least in part, the IT department.* (In healthcare the “user” is the patient and the “buyer” is the doctor or insurance company).
Using the same design language across its consumer and enterprise products allows Google to avoid that problem. If you know how to use Gmail, you probably know how to use Drive, and if you can use both of those, chances are good that you can use the Google Apps Control Panel.
[Disclosure: Chris Dixon, on top of being a personal investor in PandoDaily, is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, whose partners Jeff Jordan and Marc Andreessen are also personal investors in PandoDaily.]