Google has long offered Google Apps, an evolving suite of online applications that can create, edit, read and write Microsoft Office files. This compatibility, coupled with pricing that begins at "free," has steadily increased the popularity and adoption of Google Apps, especially among SMBs and in educational and non-profit markets. Editions designed for larger businesses offer additional features and SLAs (service level agreements) that include uptime guarantees and greater security for the Gmail email service. Pricing begins at $50 per user per year.
Google has introduced the Google Apps Marketplace, an online mart offering applications that integrate well with one or more Google Apps. These so-called integrated apps are available for business functions ranging from accounting and finance and CRM to expense, project and travel management; presentation creation and delivery; and Web conferencing. Installable apps include single sign-on with Google Apps and "universal" or shared navigation features. Google Apps Marketplace also offers user reviews and free editions or trials of many apps.
Google Apps has gained significant traction thanks to its low costs and familiarity to users of Google Search, Microsoft Office or the Web in general. Google Apps Marketplace can leverage the success of and integration with Google Apps to lower two significant barriers to exploration and adoption of new applications — cost and complexity. This means that business users and decision makers can browse, explore, download and test actual applications in actual business conditions at almost no risk.
Also, developers of Google Apps Marketplace offerings, with encouragement and support from Google, are likely to be eager to work closely with customers to make their apps effective and reliable. This has proven to be the case among many developers of iPhone/iPod Touch applications offered at the iTunes AppStore.
Rapid, broad adoption and extensive user feedback have proven sufficiently compelling to draw developers to Apple's platforms in droves, even though most applications are free or very inexpensive. These developments were unlikely to have been ignored or taken lightly by strategists at Google.
When Google Apps was new, it was frequently perceived as an intended competitor for Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes and Domino and other traditionally licensed collaboration and productivity solutions. With the introduction of the Google Apps Marketplace, Google is positioned to treat Google Apps as a generator of "eyeballs" for ads and buyers of advertising, elements of Google's core businesses and primary strengths. This is a very different approach to business applications than those pursued by more traditional vendors. It is also an approach worth serious consideration by business decision makers seeking to increase IT-enabled business resources while minimizing risks, costs and disruption.
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