Google Apps Marketplace: Good start, long road ahead
IDG News Service - Six months after launching its Google Apps Marketplace, Google is pleased with the project's progress but acknowledges it has much bigger expectations.
The number of available applications has grown from the initial 50 to 200, and companies with a total of 4 million Google Apps users have bought software from the Marketplace.
While encouraged, Google isn't close to realizing its ultimate vision. "If you look at our goal, it's lofty: to get all the best business cloud apps to work with us and be in the Marketplace," said Scott McMullan, Google Apps partner lead.
Introduced in March, the Apps Marketplace is more than an e-commerce storefront. Through a series of APIs, third-party applications can be integrated in a variety of ways with the Google Apps suite, including having a single sign-on and fused UI navigation.
As such, the Apps Marketplace is intended to surround Google Apps with as broad a universe as possible of complementary cloud-hosted software for businesses.That way, Google Apps customers can extend the suite's functionality with external applications for things like CRM (customer relationship management), accounting and project management that have gone through an integration process with the Google collaboration and communication suite.
"We want to make it easy to go to the Marketplace and get anything you need to run your business in the cloud," McMullan said in a phone interview.
The idea is sound, but the progress metrics don't seem earth-shattering at this point, especially when compared with similar projects from other vendors, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa.
"If you look at the pace at which [Salesforce's] Force.com accumulated customers, I would say that Google has definitely not outstripped it by leaps and bounds," Hilwa said via e-mail.
Google stands to benefit from the progressive acceptance and adoption of the platform-as-a-service model, he said. "We are still in the early stages but I would expect the [Google Apps] marketplace to pick up the pace a bit over the next couple of years as more companies begin to turn to the cloud," Hilwa said.
However, Google also needs to help its cause through continued enhancement of the Apps Marketplace platform. "The challenge here is for Google to offer a solid enough and flexible set of APIs that allows ISVs to invest in these offerings further," Hilwa said. "A development platform has to be both simple and powerful, which are always difficult to keep together in an offering."
Google is actively in talks with software vendors that have expressed interest in participating in the Marketplace but haven't gotten around to working on the integration, McMullan said.
The company also recognizes that some potential partners won't be drawn in until Google Apps gains certain new features or until Google exposes additional APIs for Marketplace applications to integrate with the suite, he said.
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