Zoho continues to hew closely to sometime ally, sometime rival Google. More than a year after Zoho began letting users log in to Zoho with their Google and Yahoo accounts, Zoho has made it possible for Google Apps users to log in to Zoho using their Google Apps domain credentials.
Users attempting to log in to Zoho's collaboration and enterprise application suites will see a new "Google Apps" option in the sign-in box. If the user is a Google Apps user, he or she may click on that option and enter their Google Apps domain name to access Zoho.
Users will then be redirected to Google to sign in using their Google Apps credentials. Once users authorize accounts.zoho.com, they'll be logged in to Zoho. However, those accessing Zoho for the first time through their Google Apps account must choose a Zoho username. See pictures of the process here on Google Watch.
The integration is possible because Google last month extended its Google OpenID Federated Login API to Google Apps accounts, allowing users to securely sign in to third-party Websites using their Google Apps account.
Zoho and Google compete in the collaboration software space, with both offering word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and other applications as SAAS (software as a service) that they host on their own data centers. Why, then, would Zoho let users access their apps via their Google account information?
Zoho also sells SAAS business applications for customer relationship management, billing creation, project management, application development and several other enterprise functions. Zoho believes that Google Apps users may want to use their collaboration apps to extend into these complementary enterprise applications. Thus, Zoho is trying to create a bridge between Google Apps users and its Zoho business applications.
Zoho evangelist Raju Vegnesa made no secret of this in a blog post today: "We believe this sign-in level integration will allow businesses to use Google Apps and Zoho Business Apps seamlessly. ... With over 1 million businesses using Google Apps, the ability to sign in to Zoho using their existing Google Apps credentials gives seamless single sign-on access to all Zoho applications which complement Google Apps."
Google Apps is actually catering to almost 2 million businesses, but the point is that by allowing Google Apps users to walk right through the Zoho door to use Zoho applications, Zoho is gunning for Salesforce.com, the market leader in hosted enterprise applications.
Zoho has been dismissive about Google's many integrations with Salesforce.com, which lets its customers access Google Apps right from the Salesforce.com CRM app. Salesforce.com and Google have also enabled integration with Force.com and Google App Engine.
By letting users access Zoho apps via Google Apps credentials, Zoho is clearly looking to cut in on Salesforce.com's action from Google. The question then becomes whether or not Zoho's business applications will be preferable to comparable apps from Salesforce.com. Zoho beats Salesforce.com on price, but will it beat Salesforce.com on functionality and service level?