Here's Google's (GOOG) strategy for selling to the enterprise: Take a popular consumer product, make a few small enhancements and tack the words "for business" on the end of the name. Sound simplistic? Turns out, it works. Larger and larger companies are signing on for products like Gmail, calendar and maps. (Google's most recently announced enterprise customer is Spanish banking behemoth BBVA.) All of this despite the fact that Google has a relatively tiny team devoted to snagging corporate customers.
Still, enterprise sales make up less than 4% of Google's total revenues, so the search company is nowhere near becoming a large-scale enterprise player on par with Microsoft (MSFT) or SAP (SAP). To find out more about how Google plans to become an indispensable tool for corporate users (not to mention developers), we recently caught up with Amit Singh, the newish leader of Google's enterprise business and a 20-year-veteran of enterprise power-player Oracle (ORCL).
FORTUNE: How would you describe your enterprise strategy?
Singh: Our long-term goal is to take these same consumer assets and bring them to businesses that are keenly interested in changing how they operate because they see the kind of innovation that's taking place in the consumer space. We did this first with our search appliance, then with apps, then with our maps solution. We are taking our technology assets and building enterprise versions of them -- think of them as enhancements. Of course, certain things we'll do just for the enterprise, because clearly there's no consumer version of it. But the whole consumerization of IT has deep, profound implications. It's much more than bringing your own device to work.
Are there advantages to using Google Apps for Business, other than real-time collaboration?
Collaboration and sharing are the key areas. But it's also about simplicity and speed. The next version just shows up, so you don't have to install anything. Technology is moving out of the way. You never have to use a manual because it's simple and intuitive. You shouldn't have to worry about what we do in the back-end to enable that.
So what's next for Google Apps?
Imagine you're at an airport and based on your social graph you know that at the next gate there's someone you're in touch with through work. We're moving from asking the system to do something for you to the system suggesting and assisting you. You can do a lot with location for enterprise users -- you'll see some product launches in this area. We have calendaring and tasks and email, and you'll see us deeply integrating the people side of it. Google+ and Google Apps are coming closer and closer together. You now know where someone is and you know how they're connected to someone else. So your phone could prompt you to go introduce yourself. This has implications to sales.