Google’s redesigned Google Sites goes live

For the longest time, Google Sites felt like the forgotten app in Google’s productivity suite. Earlier this year, though, the company announced that it would finally give Sites a full overhaul. Today, after a short beta, this new version of Sites is going live for all users.

Google Sites is essentially a drag-and-drop website builder for creating both public facing web pages and intranet sites that’s deeply integrated with the rest of Google’s tools. You can easily insert documents from Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and the rest of the (unfortunately named) G Suite tools into any site, for example. It also directly integrates with Google Analytics. The new sites now also allows multiple users to collaboratively edit a site (using the same tech the company also uses in Google Docs).

Admins can choose whether users are able to publish to the web or only able to make their pages available to users on their own domain.

With this update, any pages you create in Sites will also automatically scale according to the screen size you are using — and its preview mode makes it easy to see what a site will look like on a phone, tablet and desktop. In order to make those sites look halfway professional, Google added six new themes to get you started. All of these themes come with customizable font and color settings, but I hope Google will add a few more options over time.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to easily move existing sites over to the new experience (which made our Editorial Director here at TechCrunch rather unhappy), but at least for the time being, you’ll be able to jump back and forth between the old and new editors. Update: A Google spokesperson told us that Google will provide and recommend options for migrating from the classic Sites to the new Sites in 2017.

Most importantly, though, Sites is now a product people will want to use. It finally feels like a modern applications and not like the last vestige of Google’s old and forgotten design principles.

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Open source and coopetition are the new normal

In a month of unexpected outcomes, we have also seen some tech partnership announcements, ones we thought we might never see. In fact, just this week we witnessed Microsoft joining the Linux foundation and Google joining Microsoft’s .NET foundation.

You cannot minimize just how at odds these announcements are with what has been the reality of the tech industry over the last 20 years. These are organizations that have battled one other in a bitter war of words and technology visions. The idea that they would someday be working together was a highly unlikely outcome.

And yet it happened surprisingly fast, as the changing nature of the industry has forced companies who once diametrically opposed one another to start working together for the sake of their customers.

Changing business models

Back in the day when companies lived inside their proprietary stacks, they could afford to make it difficult to work together. Those days are gone, and in the age of the cloud, customers are demanding interoperability — and the big platform companies are duty-bound to give it to them.

We saw a similarly curious partnership play out last year at Dreamforce when Satya Nadella appeared on stage at Salesforce’s massive customer conference. You have to have followed the industry for the last decade to truly understand how implausible this would have been just a few years ago. These were two companies at each other’s throats suing and counter-suing one another.

There seemed little likelihood that the company CEOs — Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Nadella — would ever appear onstage together, but here they were smiling and shaking hands and appearing for all intents and purposes to be best buddies. Benioff talked about how incredible Microsoft was as a company and what a great leader Nadella was.

Nadella said something that has stuck with me to this day, and is worth repeating: “It is incumbent upon us, especially those of us who are platform vendors, to partner broadly to solve real pain points our customers have.”

He clearly understood that to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace, Microsoft has to work with companies it once considered enemies. Yet Nadella said something else that day that could explain the incongruence we are seeing in the tech industry as players partner one day and compete the next.

As I wrote last year in Cooperation is the new normal at Microsoft:

[Nadella] added that he doesn’t see this as a zero sum competitive game. Of course Microsoft will compete hard within markets, but he sees such a huge opportunity around digital transformation, and these partnerships can only help amplify that.

Perhaps that explains how gleefully Microsoft announced it had landed HP as a CRM customer last September — snatching it away from frenemy Salesforce. Microsoft’s VP of cloud and enterprise, Scott Guthrie was positively gushing about it, as quoted in a story on GeekWire:

HP Inc. “is a very large Salesforce shop — or they were until yesterday,” Guthrie said. “It was a Salesforce takeout. HP Inc. is planning a massive migration and a big bet on Dynamics. It’s one of the more public (wins) we’ve had.”

Sleeping with the enemy

That brings us to this week’s announcements where Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation, an organization it has fought with for years. Microsoft spent the 1990s and early 2000s dismissing Linux and open source in general. This week, it forked over $500,000 to become a Platinum member of the organization.

The move toward Linux actually shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that Microsoft reports that one-third of Azure virtual machines are running Linux. If that’s where the customers are going, Microsoft had little choice but to follow.

Meanwhile, we have Google and Microsoft, two companies that are competing hard with one another in the cloud, joining forces around .NET. Both companies are chasing rival AWS, so perhaps it’s a case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Of course, trying to tell who’s an enemy and who’s a friend has gotten appreciably more difficult.

Ultimately, we have gotten to this point for a couple of reasons. First of all, technology has become so complex, it’s become increasingly difficult for any one organization to provide the entire solution (or at least do all of it well). The other factor, which may be most important of all, is that customers want choice. They don’t want to be beholden to any single vendor, and they are demanding interoperability.

Yet it would be a mistake to think this is just something Microsoft is doing. It’s a story that’s being played out all over the tech industry as companies that once competed fiercely with one another look for ways to work together, even as they struggle to find that competitive edge to beat their partners. Strange days, indeed.

Featured Image: Artem Dunaev / EyeEm/Getty Images

Kubernetes founders launch Heptio with $8.5M in funding to help bring containers to the enterprise

For years, the public face of Kubernetes was one of the project’s founders: Google group product manager Craig McLuckie. He started the open-source container-management project together with Joe Beda, Brendan Burns and a few other engineers inside of Google, which has since brought it under the guidance of the newly formed Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Beda became an entrepreneur-in-residence at Accel Partners in late 2015, Burns left Google for Microsoft earlier this year and McLuckie quietly left Google to start a new venture a few weeks ago. McLuckie and Beda have now teamed up again to launch Heptio, a new pure-play Kubernetes company.

“It became clear to me through a series of conversations with customers that there was a very strong need for a Kubernetes-focused company to emerge that wasn’t tied to an adjacent business,” McLuckie, who will be Heptio’s CEO, told me. Potential Kubernetes users in the enterprise want to have a safe abstraction layer that allows them to run the applications they want in the environment of their choosing, the team believes. What they don’t want is to lock themselves into a future where their infrastructure and applications are closely tied together. “I look at the way that customers are perceiving the emergence of the cloud,” McLuckie said. “A lot of enterprise customers are leery that it’s moving back into the world of mainframes.”

By focusing purely on providing services and tools around Kubernetes, McLuckie and Beda believe that they can be a neutral partner to enterprises that are looking to adopt containers and Kubernetes.

Given its founders’ history, it’s no surprise that Heptio will also join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Both McLuckie and Beda, who will be the company’s CTO, stressed that Heptio will work in the open and contribute to the wider Kubernetes project. “As we look at the future of this, one key aspect I want us to inherit from the Kubernetes ecosystem is that sense of camaraderie and openness,” McLuckie said.

What exactly Heptio’s products will look like, though, still remains to be seen. While McLuckie noted that there are some obvious gaps in the Kubernetes toolchain and ecosystem (he especially stressed the need for easier ways to stand up Kubernetes clusters), the company likely won’t have any services on the market for the next few months. What the team did say, though, was that Heptio is a product company — though like most open-source businesses, it also expects to sell support and services.  “We see a massive ecosystem around this in the future,” Beda said.

For now, the Heptio team is just McLuckie and Beda, but the funding will allow them to quickly scale up the company now. Given their pedigree, it’s no surprise that the company has already raised an $8.5 million funding round, either (and it’s basically bypassing the seed round stage). This round was led by Accell (again, no surprise given Beda’s background) and Madrona Venture Group (also no surprise, given that both McLuckie and Beda are based in Seattle).

Featured Image: WIN-Initiative/Getty Images

Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms now let you create custom templates

Here is a small but very useful (and long overdue) update to Google’s G Suite apps: Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms are getting support for creating custom, reusable templates that you can share with your co-workers.

While you may not use templates much in your day-to-day G Suite life, this is a necessary feature for businesses. You don’t want to have to recreate your report or newsletter layout every time you start a new one, after all. For the most part then, the addition of template support in Google Docs is yet another example of Google trying to make its service more attractive to business users as it gets serious about the enterprise.

sonic_meeting_1200x863-1Google notes that G Suite for Business and Education will be able to require their users to request approval before their templates appear in the domain-wide template gallery. In addition, they can restrict who can even submit templates to begin with.

Google launched professionally designed templates for its G Suite back in March.

It’s worth noting that Google already offered a somewhat similar feature and template gallery for Google Docs in the past. The old gallery was also never updated and still featured Google’s pre-Material Design look.

The new gallery and template creation process looks to be far more integrated with all of Google’s G Suite apps than the old process ever was. As a Google spokesperson told me, the old templates gallery will shut down in early 2017.