Do paid add-ons in the Apps Marketplace erode the value of Google Apps?

It's only Tuesday (well, now it's actually Wednesday here on the right coast, but who's counting?) and I'm afraid it's already been a long week.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

It's only Tuesday (well, now it's actually Wednesday here on the right coast, but who's counting?) and I'm afraid it's already been a long week. I'm finally getting back to my Apps Roulette reviews of Applications in the Google Apps Marketplace. Tonight I'm going to cover Manymoon, a "Free Social Productivity, Project Management & Task Management" tool.

Before I do that, though, I think it's worth addressing a question that Microsoft's MS Online product manager asked me last week: If these apps weren't free, would it erode their value proposition? (I know this is a total PR term, but I've completely co-opted it; within the last year I've become quite fluent in PR-ese and now bandy about terms like "value prop" with the best of them.) This is a fair question, given that I use Google Apps for free in my day job as an educational institution and use the free standard version for my business and writing.

Perhaps a better question is, whether groups use the relatively inexpensive paid Premier Edition of Google Apps or one of the free editions, does adding the cost of Apps from the Marketplace start making Google Apps cost-comparable to Microsoft solutions? And if so, are you better off with a potentially more robust desktop solution (with many emerging hooks to the cloud)?

Unfortunately, the answer isn't clear-cut. In many cases, the Apps themselves are free (or offer a significant subset of features for free), meaning that costs stay minimal. When the integration is nicely done (as is the case for my first 2 Roulette reviews of Expensify and Manymoon), then everyone wins and the resources available in an entirely cloud-based ecosystem get really impressive.

The same goes for some of the paid applications. For an SMB with a need for a customer management solution, Batchbook, for example, provides a perfect, inexpensive, tightly integrated platform. As one user noted,

Email integration is fantastic - just BCC any important communications and you get a log of messages connected with the contacts involved. Also great for creating and filtering lists of various kinds, especially with Mailchimp integration for managing mailing lists. Finally, tagging as a way to slice and dice contacts is the way to go, esp. with the social media tag integrating Twitter and other services directly on the contact screen.

It's free to try and, for as little as $10/month, a rich, cloud-based CRM application could pay real dividends for growing businesses.

However, if a $50/user/month Premier Apps account starts adding paid Apps Christmas-tree style, the costs can rise quickly. Most likely, the costs will still undercut mainstream commercial applications, but I think that most of us would agree that free (as in beer) is a good thing.

Fortunately, the free Apps in the Marketplace are generally quite good, providing an incredible toolset for schools and SMBs. The paid Apps tend to be reasonable in price, but organizations, as with any purchases, need to assess their needs before clicking on that oh-so-easy "Add it now" button.

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