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For as much of a professed Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) user as I've become, I never really subscribed to the Google-y equivalents of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Office suite -- until, that is, I tried the Chromebook.
The word-processing service, in particular, solved an important problem for me. Rather than pack up my Mac and accessories just to write while waiting for my kids to finish their after-school activities, I uploaded some of my Foolish article templates into Google Docs and started writing. Then I built a few folders -- Docs calls them "collections" -- to replicate the Mac's Finder. Then I started sharing with some of my editors. Then I checked to see whether formatting created in Docs would hold up in Word. Everything worked as advertised, and I was hooked.
Now I start every day working in Google Docs. (I'm writing this piece on the Chromebook I received for my attendance at this year's Google I/O developer conference.) Were I to be assured that all the ways I've tricked out Gmail would remain intact on transfer, I'd move to Google Apps tomorrow.
Learning from Apple, a little at a time
And I'm not the only one. There are now some 30 million Google Apps users, roughly 60% of which are corporate, business, or individual users. Rising demand for the Big G's business suite has pushed Mr. Softy into creating Office 365, essentially an online version of its popular productivity suite.
Judging by the reviews, Microsoft users will like what they get in Office 365. But for collaboration and cross-platform usefulness, I find Google's software to be more appealing. The Chromebook aids the effort.
For its part, Microsoft wanted me to download a variety of tools to make Office 365 for the Mac work. Talk about defeating the purpose of signing up for a cloud service.
By contrast, the zero-maintenance Chromebook stands out in that it demonstrates how easily Google's software translates between machines. Work on whatever PC you like in the office, and take a Chromebook on the road. So long as your enterprise is outfitted with Google Apps, you'll be up to date wherever you are, and you'll have access to all the collaborative tools the search king makes available. (Which, over time, may include Google+.)
Any of this sound familiar? It should. It's a variation of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) "it just works" argument, with Google CEO Larry Page making the pitch rather than Steve Jobs.
Why the strategy works
I call it the difference between marketing features and marketing services. Marketing features means offering a checklist. ("You can do this, and this, and this, and, oh, look, this, too!") Marketing services involves solving a problem or granting a wish. ("If you buy this, you'll sleep better and have more fun.") The Chromebook is a service sell, and a good one at that.
How can I know? We've seen other cloud-computing providers use the "it just works" approach in pitching effectively. Among the best at this is salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) chief executive Marc Benioff. In March, he and his team masterfully demonstrated a variety of ways the company's new Service Cloud 3 customer-service suite integrates technologies without forcing users to configure anything.
See? The "it just works" pitch … works. No turtleneck or spectacles required.
That's why I think Google is on to something. At the very least, the story is right. But Google still has to execute, and given its many tablet fumbles, there's no guarantee the Big G will make good. I think it will, but I've also had my say. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Use the comments section below to let us know whether you think the Chromebook will aid Google Apps adoption.
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