Google May Cut Ribbon on Enterprise App Store

A brief stroll through the Google Solutions Marketplace shows you that the search giant is already working and playing well with others when it comes to the business of specialized business software. Need something to give your Google Calendar a little sharing and productivity boost? What about enhancements to Google Spreadsheets? An electronic signature add-on for Google Apps?

It’s evident that Google has already been working with partners from around the world to build out its enterprise software. However, a Tuesday report in The Wall Street Journal says the company is preparing to ramp up those efforts by creating an online store for business applications provided by developer partners. Yes, the phrase “app store” is used, and the report says a revenue-sharing arrangement between Google and outside developers similar to what’s now often used in the smartphone world could also apply in this instance.

The new store may help Google keep hammering away at office productivity software leader Microsoft. The hope in Mountain View, Calif., is that developers will start gravitating away from the Office platform, and business customers drawn by Google’s free software app suite may start paying for add-ons and enhancements to Gmail, Google Docs and Google Contacts.

Google’s Response

Questions regarding the Journal article drew no direct comment from Google spokesperson Kat Eller, but she did point to the existing Marketplace and seemed to hint that it could provide the foundation for efforts like those mentioned in the WSJ piece.

“The Google Solutions Marketplace makes it easy for our customers to connect with an ecosystem of products and professional services,” Eller told the E-Commerce Times. “We’re constantly working with our partners to deliver more solutions to businesses, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”

Business users can get free access to many of Google’s Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and can spend US$50 for the full, expanded suite of products. While Google has in the past year crowed about a few new large-customer wins, it still lags far behind Microsoft for providing full enterprise-based solutions. Clearly, some outside help is called for, says Ken Saunders with Search Engine Experts.

“I think it’s a huge step for Google to recognize that they can’t write all the software,” Saunders told the E-Commerce Times. “There are people who have interests for software outside of what Google would typically do. For them to open up and allow for other developers to write to their apps is a very big step. It should expand their offering and make the Marketplace more interesting and valuable to people.”

Should Redmond Worry?

A featured vendor on the Google Solutions Marketplace front page, Coastal Data Services, is a prime example of the relationships already in place between Mountain View and its partners. “Reduce costs by hosting your basic domain services on Google’s infrastructure,” the copy reads. “Get more features while saving big on servers.” There’s a stereotypical picture of a Southeastern swamp and more copy about valuable data needing protection with CISSP-verified staff, which Coastal Data, of course, promises as it tries to convince large-scale customers to migrate their businesses to their servers and infrastructure.

There are no customer reviews of Coastal Data’s services, but there are for other companies partnering with Google on its Marketplace. Now picture a new design for the page and a host of third-party developers adding new twists and tweaks for existing Google Apps — features that drill down deep into the niche industry segments of customers (perhaps the regional needs of Southeastern-based companies?) — and Saunders says Microsoft just might be forced to take a second look at its own strategies.

“I think Microsoft will say that it’s no big deal, but in reality they probably should worry as people start using Google Docs more and more, and some of Google’s other software,” Saunder said. “There is a little bit of a viral theme going on here as people move away from Microsoft. They’ll start looking for alternatives if Google can offer them a strong platform and a strong base of applications.”

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