socialwok_thevarguyFor a VAR, one potential selling point of Google Apps is how easily users can collaborate on documents. That's well and good, but today's Facebook-connected world demands something more. Enter Socialwok, a startup that claims to overlay the best features of social networking, including a real-time news feed, on top of an existing enterprise Google Apps deployment. It's not quite ready for the channel, but it's well worth watching. Here's why.

I spoke with Socialwok CEO and Founder Ming Yong, who demonstrated their four-month-old product for me. What really impressed me about their offering was how tightly it integrated with Google Apps: while you can log into Socialwok from their website, users can also launch their control panel directly from a sidebar in Gmail.

From the main Socialwok control panel, users see a news feed that will look very familiar to Facebook users. Only instead of constant posts on which member of the A-Team your high school girlfriend is, it's a running list of meetings your colleagues are attending and what documents they've shared with the group. Users can comment on threads and even bring in external collaborators (like clients) onto specific projects.

When a meeting request is accepted on Socialwok, it gets added to Google Calendar. If someone replies to a posting you made, it's sent to you as a Google Chat instant message and an e-mail. They even boast full Android and iPhone support in the mobile space - Blackberry users apparently have to rely on a slightly less slick WAP version.

In case it's not obvious, I found myself impressed with Socialwok's well-thought-out, tightly-woven approach to enhancing Google Apps despite myself. It's free for all users of Google Apps for domains right now, but they plan on rolling out enhanced, premium versions for resellers in the near future.

My one lingering question: Do enterprises really need social networking? Socialwok has a very tidy solution, but by its very nature it may turn into a productivity-killing time sink. All the same, I have a hunch that they're really the vanguard of a new trend towards turning Google Apps into so much more than an office suite, and resellers should pay attention.