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Google and Salesforce.com: does it make sense?

I've spent some time the last couple of days trying to ferret out whether the rumored hook up between Salesforce.com and Google for its applications is hype or real.
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Written by Dennis Howlett on

I've spent some time the last couple of days trying to ferret out whether the rumored hook up between Salesforce.com and Google for its applications is hype or real. I'm no closer to knowing than anyone else. I did speak with Mike Arrington on this who claims to have a very good source. He also claims this is a prelude for Google making a move on Salesforce.com. Josh Greenbaum thinks that it's stuff and nonsense. I can't see the logic in the rumor and said as much to Mike. A 'back to basics' review makes me even more skeptical.

Josh talks about Google's ToS, something I've criticized roundly in the past. If you're a business buyer then stuff like this matters. If what I have noted in regard to 'secure code' is indicative of concerns by developers, then this takes on greater poignancy. Let's also remember that SFdC seems to be tracking upwards inside the enterprise food chain where ToS matter.

The contrary point of view is that at least some segment of business will find a SFdC/Google partnership attractive. At least that's the view of one commenter to Josh's post who says:

We use Google Apps and Salesforce.com extensively.

If I can at a minimum have the features of the Salesforce.com Outlook/Office Edition, inside my Google Apps this would be tremendous for my business' productivity. I tend to disagree a little with your article - depending on exactly how sfdc integrates with Google Apps. But I am extremely excited about the prospects.

This worries me at several levels. TechCrunch uses Google Sites as evidence that this makes sense. If that's the case then enterprise buyers have just become a whole lot dumber. In today's compliance conscious climate I somehow doubt that. No-one with any sense of due diligence is going to use Sites. It's an appalling implementation by any standards.  There's more.

I've used GoogleDocs and Spreadsheet for some time. While they provide reasonable business utility, they're not exactly feature rich or, for that matter, much use beyond acting as stopgap drafting tools. Silly things like peculiar formatting issues when creating bulleted lists are annoying in Google Docs. The formatting is inconsistent and sometimes plain wrong. Similarly, I can't see how anyone who uses Excel beyond ad hoc row and column calculations is going to be lured to Google Spreadsheets. There just isn't enough to make me want to switch. Google fans can argue there is plenty of utility but they'd be forgetting one thing. The people who find real utility from Excel write checks for software. They're the bean counters at whom so many like to poke fun. (Disclosure: I used to be one.) They love Excel yet it is ironic that an entire industry has grown up around securing Excel for compliance purposes. Will those same developers be motivated to do the same for Google? That would confuse customers.

Let's wind the clock back to November 2007 when Cap Gemini announced a partnership with Google for its enterprise applications. At the time, the only reported deployment was to 165 of its own people. I've seen nothing since to indicate that Cap Gemini is getting serious traction. Run this search and you'll see what I mean. Perhaps its customers are finding the same holes I've discovered?

Then we come to the question of development. While many commenters wax lyrical about the quick release cycles for on-demand/saas software, Google is among the slowest to get things done. Even when it does, there seems to be no development strategy or roadmap that discerning buyers can assess. That's not comforting to business buyers.

There is an alternative view held by some of my colleagues that suggests different user communities, even inside large organizations, have different needs. Therefore it is possible to conceive of situations where say a Ford might deploy Google Apps for Enterprise. I don't doubt that and as I noted earlier, one of Josh's commenters confirms that is the case. What I doubt is Google's ability to tidy up what looks like a messy farmyard of applications along with ToS that need a thorough overhaul. Without that, this rumored deal is harmful to Salesforce.com because it goes to its credibility to deliver reliable, useful applications on terms with which business can live.

This is what I know for fact. Marc Benioff, CEO at Salesforce.com and Jeremy Roche, CEO of CODA are touring the US talking about the upcoming launch of Coda2Go.  This is CODA's first attempt at a serious on-demand financial application that builds on the Force.com platform. It will be formally launched in early May. CODA is giving me a detailed briefing about this towards the end of the month but on what i know so far, things look promising. From this commenter's position, that makes far more sense for Salesforce.com than navigating a rat's nest of half baked applications from Google.

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