While all the buzz (pardon the pun) today is about the launch of the Google Apps marketplace, the launch of such an offering from Google is arguably overdue. After all, Apple pioneered to concept and now every software vendor on the planet is opening up some sort of online marketplace.
The Google marketplace is interesting because of the extent to which Google has opened and documents its application programming interfaces (APIs). This means that instead of just opening an online store where customers can find interesting third-party applications, Google is actually beginning to build a true IT ecosystem around Google Apps.
Examples of the benefits of this integration are already starting to abound. Box.net, for instance, offers a collaboration application as a service that allows Google Docs users to seamlessly store files in a service that includes the workflow and content management capabilities that most corporate customers expect to have. According to Jen Grant, Box.net vice president of marketing, the Box.Net service for Google Apps essentially provides many of the same capabilities that customers expect to see when using something like Microsoft SharePoint alongside Microsoft Office.
Another extension of the Google Apps environment comes in the form of a Syncplicity service that synchronizes files on mobile computing devices and Google Apps. Since launching the service early this year, Syncplicity CEO Leonard Chung says users of the service have synchronized more than 2 million files with Google Apps.
What's different about the Google approach, adds Chung, is that the service basically allows end users to store any document in an format they want, and retrieve that information using any application format they choose. In contrast, the rival Microsoft Office Live service is basically a locked-down environment where one file format rules over all.
The other key attribute of the Google service is support for OAuth and OpenID, said Chung. This creates the opportunity to provide customers with single sign-on capabilities that can be extended across both Google applications and existing on-premise applications or other software-as-a-service offerings.
Ian Knox, senior director for product management at Skytap, a provider of cloud computing services, echoed the OpenID assessment. Skytap envisions customers hosting their enterprise applications on Skytap servers and then using Google Apps to access the data in those applications. To accomplish that, the Google environment needs to be as open as possible, he said.
With the launch of Google Apps Marketplace and the recent acquisition of DocVerse to add support for Microsoft Office documents, Google has begun to orchestrate the collective activities of an entire third-party application ecosystem that is effectively working together to isolate Microsoft in the cloud.