Google has formed a partnership with Capgemini, which will provide IT services to large businesses that adopt the Google Apps Premier Edition hosted suite of collaboration and communication software.

A new member of the Google Enterprise Professional program, Capgemini now offers training, support, integration and other services for Google Apps Premier Edition customers, the vendors plan to announce today (10 September).

The partnership with Capgemini, one of the world's largest IT services companies, could make Google Apps more palatable to large organisations that prefer IT services providers to assist them with changes and additions to their large, complex IT architectures.

"Our overall partner strategy is to make sure that those customers that come on board have the services they need or request," said Kevin Smith, Google's head of enterprise partnerships.

In the case of Google Apps Premier Edition customers, some may hire Capgemini to help them with e-mail migration, with adding the suite to an existing single sign-on system, or with making sure that the Calendar component synchronises properly with employees devices, Smith said.

Capgemini added Google Apps to the portfolio of products it supports because it believes that demand for software-as-a-service (SAAS) collaboration and communication suites will grow strongly in coming years, company officials said.

For Capgemini, offering services for a SAAS suite like Google Apps Premier Edition is a natural extension of its broad expertise providing outsourced desktop support to more than 1 million [m] users worldwide, it said.

The Premier Edition, introduced in February, is a fee-based version of the Google Apps suite that is tailored for workplace use in organisations of all sizes. For $50 (£25) per user per year, it offers phone technical support, software interfaces for integrating suite components with other systems and more e-mail storage than the free Standard Edition.

As CIOs and IT managers in large companies warm up to the idea of these Web-hosted suites, global IT services providers like Capgemini are drawn to develop services for them, said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research Inc.

"We'll likely see services providers start to recognise the opportunity to help implement these applications within enterprises, going beyond desktop management and delivering a heterogenous desktop to an organisation," Wettemann said.

Google, which generates most of its revenue from the consumer market through online ads delivered via its search engines and partner Web sites, has decided to broaden its scope and become a provider of IT products for enterprises.

In so doing, it is locking horns with established players in markets like collaboration and communication software, and in enterprise search.

Google Apps includes word processing, calendar, Web page creation, spreadsheet applications, Webmail and instant messaging communication services.

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