Will a Google partnership with Salesforce.com yield a software combination with staying power?
If so maybe a real threat to Microsoft could emerge. Dan Farber noted the two could be a 21st century applications platform. But the devil will be in the details.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported the two are talking about a partnership. On Tuesday, analysts were weighing a potential combination. The partnership when announced will reveal just how seriously Google is taking enterprise software. And if Google is really serious this Salesforce.com partnership could be a precursor to a Google acquisition.
But let's not get carried away just yet. Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan notes:
The scope and duration of a partnership, if announced, will provide valuable insight into Google management’s commitment to joining CRM in taking on the incumbent software players.
Now combining CRM and a productivity/messaging suite as an on-demand application seems like a no brainer. Salesforce.com could give Google's applications more credibility. Google Office just doesn't have the critical mass to get big enterprises interested. Salesforce.com, which counts Cisco, Merrill Lynch and Japan Post as customers, could change that equation. Google could integrate its messaging tools with Salesforce.com's CRM.
What's interesting about this potential tie-up is that Google looks like it would be the one to get most of the benefit. What exactly would Salesforce.com get by letting Google ride its enterprise coattails? Perhaps Salesforce.com gets an upfront payment of some sort. Or Google buys a bunch of subscriptions. Maybe Salesforce.com gets more AppsExchange traffic.
Daniel Cummins, an analyst at Bank of America, argued that Salesforce.com could get distribution from Google in enterprise accounts. The problem with that theory: Google doesn't have the enterprise chops yet. More likely: Cummins said that Google integration could mean more AppExchange partners.
Rangan says the key will be seeing whether a Google-Salesforce.com partnership has staying power.
It appears that Google’s predominant focus is still search, and it remains to be seen how quickly Salesforce.com can engage Google and impress upon them a sense of urgency about the partnership. Moreover, the Google sales team will probably have to be trained on some of the basic Salesforce.com functionality that ties into AdWords and be appropriately compensated for engaging in crossproduct sales. Finally, partnerships between high profile technology companies do not tend to have long term tenure and can be fickle, and the level of commitment of the senior executives of two founder-driven companies could be tested.