On Tuesday I shared some some thoughts on the choices businesses have as you consider upgrading Microsoft Office. This decision goes far beyond traditional productivity applications though; a new generation of workplace tools that reflect the collaborative nature of today’s work environment are becoming more essential to employees. Instant messaging accelerates information sharing between coworkers. Video chat lets people around the world meet face-to-face. Video and image sharing is becoming a critical form of communication. Companies develop passionate communities around blogs and other social media. Customers learn about businesses through online maps and search engine marketing.

Today’s workers need tools to facilitate all these activities, and traditional productivity software comes up short, even after “major” upgrades. Last week we announced that we’re working to make Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, Google Reader, iGoogle and many more Google services available soon to Google Apps customers. What will customers need to do to access all this new functionality? Simply refresh the browser. No 64-bit servers to purchase, no complex software prerequisites (28 of them for SharePoint 2010 alone!), no backup systems to install, no VPN connectivity issues to worry about. It’s an upgrade that will truly change the workplace.

By no means do we think that Google could possibly develop all the functionality that any employee might need, but at the same time, there’s real value in services that all connect to a common backbone for core systems like contacts, presence and user authentication. Businesses need specialized accounting tools, CRM systems, marketing automation capabilities, project management tools and much more. Through the Apps Marketplace and our developer tools, customers can integrate 3rd party cloud services with Google Apps and enhancements they develop themselves. The possibilities are limitless.

This new approach – the integrated combination of Google Apps, a broad array of other Google services, and complementary functionality built by developers and partners – will give your employees the tools they need to be productive in the modern workplace. I invite you to learn more about Google Apps and to start a conversation with our team about providing your employees with the best tools for their jobs.