Google last week brought the spotlight back onto on-demand application marketplaces with its launch of the Google Apps Marketplace. Until the search and online advertising giant waded in, the territory had been a quiet backwater, dominated for the past few years by Salesforce.com’s AppExchange. It’s hard now to credit just how much excitement surrounded the early days of AppExchange, with Marc Benioff describing it as Salesforce.com’s “second killer app” and pundits (myself included) rating various contenders in the ecosystem wars to win control of the cloud.
As several commentators have argued, Google’s intervention threatens to demote Salesforce.com from its pre-eminent position. “It’s a play for share and momentum against Salesforce.com,” Forrester Research’s Ted Schadler told eWeek:
“[It]’s 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 … It starts with email, not CRM, as the anchor. That’s much more interesting because everybody uses email.”
Schadler is right to highlight the advantage of building an application platform around email rather than CRM. It’s almost two years exactly since Salesforce.com launched its integration of Google Apps (I remember it well, since I wrote the white paper for the launch). Back then, Google benefitted from the enterprise validation and there’s no doubt that integration to Salesforce.com helped expand its footprint in the market. But for many enterprises, embedding email and collaboration into CRM is the wrong way round — even Salesforce.com implicitly recognises that with its rollout of Chatter as a means of expanding beyond the sales office and the customer service center…