A short report from Gartner reckons that the newest Google Apps Premier Edition is still not ready for prime-time in the enterprise, but that it is close, likely to evolve at "internet speed" and, crucially, ahead of the competition. The killer feature offered by Google's suite of tools is collaboration - something not well supported in current mainstream office suites. Still a major issue with Google Apps is the fact that the user has to be online to use them. Incidentally, Google are charging $50 per user per year - while Gartner estimate the average annual cost to the enterprise of providing email services to be more than double this figure at $122. The report's authors go on to identify two targets for proliferation, one of which is:

Individuals will experiment with Google Apps, employ it for short-term, ad hoc collaboration projects at work and spread word of their success to drive "viral adoption" by other users. Viral adoption will eventually lead to end-user pressure for IT organizations to include Google Apps.

The viral adoption is happening and I have already experimented with these tools for "ad hoc collaboration projects", with some success. And not just Google Apps of course, take a look at the exhaustive list provided by Ismael Ghalimi's on his Office 2.0 Database. I was particularly interested by report's second recommendation:

If your enterprise wants to experiment with Google Apps, segment users into, and begin piloting Google Apps for, two different classes: those users most likely to experiment with it on their own for collaboration (inside and outside the enterprise) and those not currently served by the enterprise's IT infrastructure.

This could clearly apply to any services offered remotely of course - not just Google's. I wonder how many enterprises are sufficiently flexible and confident to experiment in this way? How many of the early adopters identified here find themselves unable to translate the rich, collaborative experience they find outside the enterprise, with the dull fare served up to them by their corporate IT departments?