Update, May 7th: The Official Google Enterprise Blog promises that more services will be coming this year for Google Apps users. Hooray for that! (Thanks, Brad.)
If you've taken the leap and hosted your domain email with Google Apps, no doubt you've noticed that you miss out on services that regular Gmail accounts get: like Google Reader, Voice, Wave, Analytics, and right now, Buzz.
After complaining about the disparities on a recent episode of This Week in Google, a helpful Googler unofficially got in touch to clarify and confirm the problem. Let's call her/him "Helpful McGoogler." Here's what HM said.
To the user, it may appear that there are three types of Google accounts: Gmail accounts, Google accounts, and Google Apps (for your domain) accounts. In truth, there's only one kind of account: a Google Account.
Helpful McGoogler explains:
Abstract the idea of a "Google Account" from being associated with Gmail or Google Apps. You can tie ANY email address to a "Google Account."
Check out https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount and notice that it asks you for your "current email address." So let's say I go to school at Big University and I have an email address firstname.lastname@example.org... I can use that email address while signing up and that will be my login name to access Google services.
Some of the confusion that leads to "you must have a gmail.com address" to access Google services is because a Google Account comes "for free" when you open a Gmail account. So using a Gmail address always just works.
Google Apps accounts provide a subset of Google services hosted for your domain. You get some, but not all of what vanilla Google accounts get.
Helpful McGoogler says:
When you open a Google Apps domain account. You are essentially creating a branded Google Account world for the Google services your domain is hosting. You can see your services at https://www.google.com/a/cpanel/[domain.name]/Dashboard.
So, let's say you have a Google Apps domain that is example.com and you created a user email@example.com. You will be able to log in with firstname.lastname@example.org for all your Google Apps hosted services. Typically this is email, Docs, Calendar, and Contacts... but you can click the "add more services" link to expand that. Right now, you won't find stuff like Reader, Google Voice, AdWords, Finance, Analytics, etc... but still there is some interesting stuff in there.
But what if you want to access ALL services through a single email address?
Helpful McGoogler says:
What you do is create a NORMAL Google Account (described at the beginning) and associate it with your email@example.com email address. That "vanilla" google account will now have access to all (well, I think all) Google services. You can have a Reader account, a Voice account, an Analytics account, etc all associated with your non-gmail address. It can even have the same password--but it doesn't need to--to make it seem like it's the same account... but in reality, it's a very separate account.
Still, this just means you have two different Google accounts, with different Contacts and Calendar and Google Docs data on each. Google Apps accounts provides a subset of the services you get with a regular Google Account, and so having a GApps account duplicates those datastores. This is the scenario I complained about on TWiG.
Helpful McGoogler acknowledges that this is indeed a problem:
Here is a scenario that really trips people up... Let's say you are using your firstname.lastname@example.org email and are all happy
that you have your Contacts all in-line and organized and filled out. Now you go and create a vanilla Google Account using your email@example.com email address (mostly because you want to use Google Voice and Google Reader with the same log-in as your Apps account—btw, this was totally me a couple years ago). When you set up something like Google Voice, you will expect your Contacts to be full of all the goodness you set up in your firstname.lastname@example.org "hosted Gmail" instance... you will be disappointed to find your Contacts are empty.
This is because the vanilla Google Account that is being used for Google Voice will be accessing a DIFFERENT "Contacts" service which has no data (sadness). My ugly solution was to initially export the contacts from my Google Apps Account and import them to my Google vanilla Account and try to keep them in sync when I make edits.
This double set of Contacts especially stinks for Android users who sign into Android with their Google Apps account, because your Google Contacts and Calendar are baked into your phone setup.
Helpful McGoogler is with me on this:
When you add Android into the mix, Contacts get weird. Because, I think, you can add your Google Apps account to Android and not your email@example.com "vanilla" Google Account. (GT: Yes, this is true.) But, when you sign in to Google Voice on Android, you will need to enter the password (which might be the same) of your vanilla Google Account. BUT, on Android, your Contacts are read from the system's phone book. Not necessarily the vanilla Google Voice Google Account that has its separate contacts (accessible through the normal Google Voice webapp). Ugh. The "Contacts" issue is by far the most 'hurting' in this whole scenario.
Yup. Calendar is also an issue.
I thought this was the full extent of the problem, so it's nice to have even unofficial confirmation from the horse's mouth. Helpful McGoogler DID say s/he thought the teams at Google are aware of the issue and are working to address it. It also sounds like some bits of Android need to get refactored to work seamlessly with both vanilla Google accounts and Google Apps accounts.
After that episode of TWiG aired, at least three listeners emailed me saying they use third-party service Soocial to sync Contacts across their multiple Google/Google Apps accounts. I haven't tried this myself--and you may have to enter your Google account password into Soocial to set it up, which is a big red flag--but it's something.
Are you having the Google Apps account dilemma? What are you doing to deal with it? Let me know in the comments.
Update: Google Apps user Matt Jacob explains his frustrations with the Google (Apps) account dichotomy. I love how he refers to Google Apps accounts (lowercase a) versus Google Accounts (uppercase A). Clearly FREE vanilla Google Accounts get more preference than potentially-paid Google Apps accounts, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense.