News Analysis: Neither Google nor Salesforce.com will acknowledge any friction, but some industry watchers wonder whether Salesforce.com might be secretly chafing at the launch of Google’s Apps Marketplace March 9.
Google Apps customers, which include 2 million business and 25 million active users, can purchase project management apps from Atlassian and Manymoon or billing and accounting software Intuit, among other services. This will provide third-party software developers with a larger cloud computing channel into which to sell their applications.
This store, which trades entirely in Web-based or cloud computing applications, follows in the footsteps of Salesforce.com’s successful AppExchange cloud computing store.
There are clearly key differences, the most obvious of which is that, at more than 4 years old, AppExchange is far ahead of the Marketplace. Google’s Marketplace launched with 50 partners, while AppExchange touts hundreds of partner applications.
While Marketplace features collaboration software as the base, Salesforce.com’s anchor for apps is a CRM application to help salespeople close deals.
Yet Marketplace and AppExchange both sell similar offerings, including apps for project management and finance. There is overlap in services and similarities in the SAAS method with which they are provided. That sounds a lot like competition to analysts such as Forrester Research’s Ted Schadler.
Schadler said that Google sees the opportunity to add a great layer of integration to help expand the Google Apps ecosystem, where many independent apps may be stitched together to prop up Google Apps. “It’s a play for share and momentum against Salesforce.com.”
“[Google Apps Marketplace] is a marketplace for any cloud-hosted application. So it’s an integration hub as well as a marketplace. That puts it in a different place from AppExchange,” Schadler said. “It starts with e-mail, not CRM, as the anchor. That’s much more interesting because everybody uses e-mail.”
CRM is a specialty app, albeit a lucrative one.
IDC analyst Melissa Webster said she isn’t sure whether Salesforce.com was invited to join the Google’s Apps Marketplace, which includes Salesforce.com rivals NetSuite and SuccessFactors.
“My sense is that Salesforce.com was not in there courting Google, and Google had plenty of other takers and doesn’t really care,” Webster told eWEEK.
Google, Salesforce.com Say Theyre Still Tight
eWEEK asked both Salesforce.com and Google whether Salesforce.com was invited to join the Marketplace, but neither directly answered the question.
A Google spokesperson told eWEEK, “We’d welcome Salesforce’s participation in the Marketplace but can’t speak on their behalf regarding their plans.”
Sean Whitely, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce.com, e-mailed this statement to eWEEK: “Our customers have always been our number one priority and they drive our product roadmap. As new services and products come out, we look to our customers to determine what we should support. Based on today’s announcement from Google, we will be looking to our customers for guidance.”
That’s not a no, but not a yes. Webster further questioned whether or not Google and Salesforce.com’s much-publicized integrations are bearing any fruit.
A Google spokesperson stressed that Google Apps and Salesforce.com are certainly still integrated, and that this integration proved to Google that the Marketplace would work.
The spokesperson further noted that Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff was a featured speaker at Google’s Atmosphere cloud event in London last October.
It’s all well and good that Google thinks its Marketplace can work in the wake of its successful interoperability with Salesforce.com, but it’s not without its challenges.
Google lets developers access the Marketplace through single sign-on courtesy of OpenID, while customers access the apps through OAuth. Group policy management will be a tough task, Schadler told eWEEK.
“Salesforce.com is a specialty app, and you limit who accesses to it, but e-mail is universal,” Schadler said. “You have to have controls in place to make sure that the people that should get the apps get it, but those that don’t aren’t accessing it. There is a fair amount of group policy management.”
Schadler also wants to know what Microsoft is going to do regarding the App Store. “They’re going to have to respond here,” he said.
That’s another story for another time. Stay tuned. The year 2010 may be the first real year of the cloud computing platform wars.