By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm
I’m at Google for one of its Campfire One developer events. There’s a campfire and a tent–even though we’re indoors–and a piece of significant news: The company is introducing Google Apps Marketplace, which is both a portal for business apps and a set of tools that let third-party developers integrate their wares with the Google Apps services.
The Marketplace allows companies to create versions of their offerings that share a single sign-on with Google Apps (courtesy of the OpenID standard) and which have access to information stored in Apps (via OAuth, the same standard that Twitter uses to enable third-party Twitter clients); it also lets developers embed Google Apps widgets inside their services. APIs for Google Apps features such as its calendar and contacts permit further integration. And when a business finds and signs up for something in the Marketplace, it then shows up in its Google Apps dashboard along with Google’s own apps.
The Marketplace is launching with more than fifty partners. Among them are four companies which did brief demos tonight: Intuit (which is offering an integrated payroll service), Atlassian (JIRA, an issue-tracking suite for developers), Manymoon (a social productivity application for teams), and Appirio (professional service automation). What we saw looked slick.
Other names I recognized in the slide Google just flashed briefly included Aviary, Box.net, eFax, Expensify, and Memeo.
In its broad strokes, at least, Apps Marketplace looks reminiscent of Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, which similarly lets third-party companies meld their wares with the Salesforce platform and market them to Salesforce customers. David Girouard, president of Google Enterprise said that part of the idea of Apps Marketplace is to let Google focus on a few core Google Apps services rather than try to build everything for everybody. It’s a strikingly different strategy from that of Google’s most interesting Web-based productivity rival, Zoho, which is building a remarkably far-flung, comprehensive set of business apps.
(Knowing Zoho, though, here’s a safe bet: If at all possible, it will offer some of its services on Google Apps Marketplace rather than merely competing with it.)
(UPDATE! Yup, it was a safe bet–in fact, Zoho already has Zoho for Google Apps live. SlideRocket, an online presentation tool that’s much better than Google Apps’ presentation program, is also part of the Apps Marketplace. Smart of both of them to jump aboard the bandwagon.)
This is an important time for Google Apps (and everyone else doing Web-based productivity): The last few months before Microsoft jumps into the online suite game with Office 2010’s Web Apps are dwindling away. Microsoft is concentrating almost completely on (A) catching up in terms of basic editing and collaborative functionality, (B) working well with Office’s traditional desktop apps, and (C) doing a good job of preserving formatting. If it has anything like Apps Marketplace in the works, it hasn’t announced it yet–and so it makes a lot of sense for Google to get this rolling before Microsoft’s Web suite is even open for business.
Google Apps Marketplace is up and running now–here’s Google’s blog post about it. And here’s the company’s video walkthrough…