Which Australian mobile retailer has ‘gone Google’?


Google will this week announce that a major Australian mobile phone retail chain has adopted its Google Apps collaboration platform. But with several retailers denying they’re the one involved and the search giant refusing to disclose any further details about the identity of the company concerned, mystery surrounds its identity for now.

The company has invited journalists to an event at its Sydney headquarters this Thursday for a briefing on its Google Apps product line — which includes the Gmail and Google Docs software as a service offerings, as well as a string of associated products.

The Google Apps platform is currently seen as the major alternative to Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange ecosystem, which dominates the Australian corporate landscape and has been soaking up local end users en-masse from the declining Novell Groupwise and Lotus Notes/Domino suites for some time.

A representative from Google’s local PR agencies said at the event, the company would be announce an Australian mobile phone retail chain had ‘gone Google’, and that the deployment had not previously been reported. “The retailer operates both company owned and franchise-like agency stores in 94 locations across Australia and employs over 300 staff via its nationwide network,” they said, noting the actual deployment had taken place about a year ago.

Calls to the major Australian mobile phone retail chains this week this week hit a brick wall, however.

Crazy John’s head of online Andrew Lane said his company wasn’t the retailer involved, and Vita Group chief executive chief executive David McMahon said his firm, which operates the Fone Zone brand, used a combination of Outlook on the PC and Entourage for the Apple Macintosh — as it also operates the extensive Next Byte Apple franchise.

A spokesperson for Virgin Mobile could not immediately confirm whether the company was the retailer concerned, while a spokesperson for Allphones could not immediately be reached.

One clue as to the retailer’s identity was the number of retail outlets concerned, with Google placing the figure at 94. Vodafone, Optus and Telstra all have a wider shopfront presence than that figure — and Telstra chief technology officer Hugh Bradlow has previously indicated his lack of enthusiasm for the platform.

Fone Zone operates some 152 stores in total, with the majority of those being self-branded or through the One Zero or Telstra brands, while Virgin Mobile’s site lists around 60, and Allphones in a media release in 2007 trumpeted the opening of its 150th store.

Google’s announcement will be the second event announcing a new Australian Google Apps customer in just a few months — in mid-November last year the company held a press conference in Sydney to disclose new customers Flight Centre and Ray White, with both citing a good cultural match between Google and their own relationships which has fuelled the relationship.

However, most of Google’s wins have been in sectors where workers are geographically dispersed — such as franchise-style networks, universities, or state education departments. The search giant has yet to gain a foothold in major government departments, or large Australian companies in sectors like financial services, where Microsoft retains a firm grip on its business.

Image credit: Briony, Creative Commons