Everyone is talking about Microsoft’s Live Mesh, a new way to connect data and applications inside your computer to other devices on the Web. While everyone else talks about Microsoft today, I’d like to remind people that Google has staked out some interesting ground already.
Microsoft tries to bring PC applications online while Google, meanwhile, has been trying to bring the Web offline, which is another way to do essentially the same thing. Not content with waiting for HTML 5, when browsers will cache online apps for offline use, Google has been pushing Google Gears, which does the same thing but is available today.
Google appears to be building its own apps, but also relying heavily on partnerships with leaders in SaaS. While last year there were rumors that Google would buy Salesforce.com, what has emerged is a more complex series of deals that have brought the companies into strategic alignment. Perhaps these small alliances are a harbinger of a merger to come, but Google might want to make similar alliances with other vendors and remain more neutral.
Salesforce.com clients can already benefit from AdWords spots that automatically lead to a contact form that can be tracked by their Salesforce.com system. Google can also display Salesforce.com information from within its Google Search Appliance. Salesforce.com has supported Google’s OneBox initiative and is featured prominently as a partner.
Salesforce.com has its roots in CRM, but has been working to expand to a SaaS platform through its AppExchange marketplace, now backed by its Force.com SaaS platform environment. Now, Salesforce.com has added Google as a partner to its SaaS platform, a major coup.
This month, both companies announced some clever integration between Salesforce.com and Google Apps, so that office application activity is trackable within the Salesforce.com system. The integration itself is offered free, but Salesforce.com charges for Google Apps support, nicely solving Salesforce’s problem of how to make money on this and Google’s problem of how to provide support to businesses that demand it. A win-win-win for Salesforce.com, Google, and their customers.
So, what’s next? An ad-based model for a free or low-cost Salesforce.com offering? Another big partner, such as Intuit, who has been signing up so many small businesses to QuickBooks Online? Whatever it is, SaaS (and other forms of cloud computing) will continue to make headlines, and Google will make as many of them as Microsoft.