According to Google, over the last three years more than 2 million businesses began using Google Apps. With the unveiling of the Google Apps Marketplace, one can only expect this rate to increase at an increasing rate. Simple configuration and low maintenance has made Google Apps an excellent choice for startup businesses entering the market. In addition to the existing drivers for moving business processes into the cloud, the Google Apps Marketplace makes it possible for businesses to move their existing operations into the cloud without losing the functionality of their beloved (and most likely outdated and costly-to-maintain) desktop applications.
In conjunction with the recently released Google Apps Migration for Microsoft® Exchange, Google Apps is becoming a very appealing platform for existing enterprise and governments alike. IT admins are going to have to come up with really good reasons to present to their CTOs to justify staying away from the cloud.
What is Google Apps Marketplace? Google Apps Marketplace enables developers to market their cloud applications that integrate with Google Apps platform. Businesses already using Google Apps can browse the marketplace and find cloud applications that can enable the business to do something new or replace an existing desktop application. The third-party cloud apps can then be installed by an admin to a Google Apps domain in a couple of clicks. The admin goes through three steps: 1) Agreeing to Terms of Service provided by the third-party vendor, 2) Granting access to necessary data, 3) Enabling the app.
Immediately after, the third-party application integrates seamlessly into your Google Apps — the control panel appears for the admins and the end-users see the new application within their Google Apps accounts. All third-party apps rely on existing authentication — eliminating the need for employees to have multiple logins for multiple systems and use the same data store for contacts, emails, and documents. Everything is stored in one place.
What can third-party apps do? Even with the marketplace in it’s nascence, Google has clearly worked with vendors to make sure that from the very beginning, an excellent array of free and for-pay third-party apps is available.
For example, OffiSync, once installed on Google Apps along with an add-in for MS Office (2003/2007/2010) enables integration between the desktop MS Office applications and the Google’s Docs platform. This makes it easy for users to work in their familiar (and often more functional) desktop Office application while saving their documents directly to the cloud with a single-click. A big plus is that saving documents directly to the cloud unlocks collaboration and sharing features otherwise unavailable on documents saved locally.
Other examples include apps that enable ‘shared contacts’ directories, team collaboration tools, cloud telephony, CRMs, media sharing suites and so on. The full-offering of the installable apps can be browsed in the Google Apps Marketplace.
What is the impact of the new Google Apps Marketplace? The Google Apps Marketplace makes it easy for businesses to create a tightly integrated set of applications accessible from anywhere using a single logon. For many businesses, Google Apps can virtually eliminate the need for inefficient processes such as syncing (passwords, documents, databases entries) amongst incompatible software packages while simultaneously wrestling to keep the syncs operational when individual packages are updated to newer versions. Google Apps Marketplace allows businesses to design their solutions using third-party apps (which can be thought of as ‘modules’ for the Google Apps platform) without creating additional points of failure and encountering integration issues. All this while maintaining high level of fluidity between various apps and a consistent look-and-feel across the board.
Google Apps has always been a cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Exchange, Novell GroupWise and Lotus software for email, chat, and document sharing. With the addition of the Marketplace, the Google Apps platform is improving in its weaker areas such as interoperability and availability of third-party addons. The Google Apps Marketplace enables supply-and-demand forces to promote innovation that is extending the Google Apps featureset beyond it’s core and making it an even more appealing platform for businesses and organizations that are open to moving their operations into the cloud.