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Salesforce.com Integrates with Google Apps

Salesforce.com has added a toolkit to its Force.com platform today that allows its partners and developers to access Google’s Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The toolkit, which lets programmers connect their applications or data into Google Apps and other Google services, strengthens the already tight relationship between the two vendors and fuels speculation that Google could acquire Salesforce.com in the future, analysts say.

Force.com is Salesforce.com’s platform that allows third-party developers, either from other software vendors or enterprises, to build software as a service (SaaS) applications. Those applications are made available on the company’s AppExchange.

“Google and salesforce.com share a common vision for making the cloud accessible to all developers,” Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, said in a statement. “Our work with Salesforce.com will help make cloud computing increasingly accessible and powerful for developers, resulting in better Web applications and experiences.”

The companies offered an example of how the new API toolkit could be utilized. One company, CODA, a European software vendor that makes financial applications, built a web application that takes data from Google Spreadsheets (a component of Google Apps) and feeds it into an application it built on the Force.com platform.

The news today builds on the partnership between Google and Salesforce.com announced back in April. At the time, Salesforce.com announced that it would offer Google Apps for free to any customer who wanted them as part of their customer relationship management (CRM) software (Salesforce.com’s core product). Google Apps is a suite of Web-based applications that includes Gmail, Calendar, Documents & Spreadsheets and Google Talk (an instant messaging client).

Prior to the Salesforce.com partnership, Google tried to improve enterprise confidence in Google Apps by acquiring Postini, a vendor that handles e-mail messaging encryption.

The overall partnership has been seen as helping give Google a new sales channel to reach prospective enterprise customers. IT departments have been trying to understand how Google Apps could fit into their enterprise environments. They were at first hesitant about moving tools such as e-mail into a hosted model where they don’t keep servers on premise, says Jeffrey Kaplan, president of THINKstrategies, a SaaS consulting firm.

“But this friendly relationship [between Google and Salesforce.com] is going to continue to evolve,” Kaplan says. “They are happy to show how their two [application] environments can coexist.”

Would Google consider acquiring Salesforce.com to shore up its ambitions of selling enterprise software? Kaplan says “it’s a fair prediction, especially if there is specific prompt.”

Such an impetus would be if Oracle or another old-guard technology company made a hostile bid for Salesforce.com, he says. “Google might come in as a white night to save them if that happened,” Kaplan adds.

But buying Salesforce.com wouldn’t be easy or cheap, a recent report by the 451 Group speculated. While the vendor makes around $1 billion in revenue, “over the past year, Salesforce.com stock has tacked on 50% while the Nasdaq has basically flat-lined,” according to the report, which predicted Salesforce.com would cost Google (or anybody else) nearly $10.5 billion to purchase.

For now, however, the partnership should help developers utilize applications on both the Force.com platform and Google. It will cause fewer development headaches because the toolkit automates much of the process, says Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst with the Yankee Group

The end result? As Google and Salesforce.com focus mainly on the core functions of their applications, third-party developers can improve upon the applications by building additional features on top of them.

“That’s the whole Web 2.0 philosophy,” she says. “Focus on the foundation and let users build what they want. Enterprise apps never did that before.”


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