Google Enterprise chief Girouard heads to startup

David Girouard, who led Google’s (s goog) push into enterprise applications, is leaving the company for a startup called The move has some questioning just how successful the Internet search giant has been in penetrating the applications market, where Microsoft(s msft) remains the leader.

During his eight years with the company, Girouard helped lead Google’s push to take on Microsoft  in desktop applications and email,  two areas where Microsoft dominated. While Microsoft remains atop the heap, Google was able to parlay its cloud-based infrastructure to win some share and to compete for some high-profile accounts.

Its aggressive subscription pricing on Google Apps and Gmail — not to mention the free versions — forced Microsoft to offer cheaper hosted versions of Office, SharePoint, and Exchange email.

Girouard also spearheaded the Google Appliance push to embed Google search inside customer data centers. Sundar Pichai, SVP of Google Chrome and apps, will take on Girouard’s responsibilities, CRN reported.

Girouard posted news of his career change to his Google+ site Friday night,  the same day Google confirmed a report that it hired Digg founder Kevin Rose. Rose’s new duties were not specified.

For all Google’s effort, the incumbent powers Microsoft Office and Exchange Server still lead the corporate applications and email market.  Last fall, market researcher Gartner(s it) estimated that Google Apps for Business represented less than 1 percent of Google’s overall revenue and there is some doubt as to whether the enterprise apps business remains a priority for the company.

Still, market share and revenue may never have been Google’s goal. By offering a lower-cost option to the Office/Exchange tandem, Google forced the market leader to respond, and that may have been the point all along.