Google is expected to augment its existing applications store to let third-party developers sell software that hooks into its collaboration applications, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google Apps is a suite of SAAS (software as a service) applications the search engine offers in free and paid versions to let users create content and share it with colleagues or friends. The suite includes Gmail; Google Docs word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications; and Google Sites publishing software.
The store, which the Journal (paywall warning) said could be an extension of Google's Solutions Marketplace for third-party programs, would let programmers write enhanced security features or import contacts for Google Apps and sell them to customers. Google would take a portion of the proceeds and share sales with the programmers.
Google Apps users would then be able to access their purchased applications through the menu at the top of their screens within Gmail or Google Docs. The store is expected to be unveiled in March, but Google declined to discuss it and issued the following statement:
""The Google Solutions Marketplace makes it easy for our customers to connect with an ecosystem of products and professional services. We're constantly working with our partners to deliver more solutions to businesses, but we have nothing to announce at this time.""
However, in its inquiry about a new online software store, eWEEK didn't mention the Solutions Marketplace, which has been quiet since its launch in April 2008. That a Google spokesperson mentioned it could mean the Journal is on the right trail for at least some of the information.
Another thing the Journal may be spot on about: If Google is in fact letting third-party programmers come in and build add-ons for Google Apps, Google may be borrowing its idea from its partner Salesforce.com's Force.com and AppExchange platforms.
Force.com lets external developers create add-ons that integrate into the main Salesforce application and are hosted on Salesforce.com's cloud computing infrastructure. AppExchange is a directory of applications built for Salesforce by third-party developers, which users can purchase and add to their Salesforce system.
Google's goal is to foster more adoption of Google Apps. While the suite has more than 2 million businesses using it, with hundreds of thousands of seats paying $50 per year, Microsoft and IBM have come to the cloud computing club with hosted versions of their collaboration applications.
Google has spent the last three years trying to get businesses to migrate from on-premises installations-systems companies host on servers they have to buy, install and maintain-from Microsoft and IBM. With those companies also offering cloud computing suites, the competition is heightened.
Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard told eWEEK in a recent interview that he welcomes the competition.
""If you have all of the major vendors suggesting you look at the cloud, the consideration of our solutions is going to rise dramatically and we think we have advantages.""
The onus is squarely on Google to differentiate from Microsoft and IBM, whose combined enterprise entrenchment is impressive. Microsoft has 500 million enterprise customers, while IBM has more than 145 million seats for Lotus Notes. Consumers stand to be the true winners because they have more choices.