The Google Apps Marketplace, not to be confused with the Android Market or the Chrome Web Store (both of which add functionality via apps to Google-developed products) was launched a year ago this week. The Apps Marketplace adds third-party applications with federated logins and a variety of integration points for the millions of users of Google Apps.
While some of the applications are limited to particular versions of Google Apps (most often in the case of the $50/user/year Google Apps for Business), most of the cloud-based software works across the board from the free "Google Apps" (formerly known as the Standard Edition) all the way through the Education and Government versions. Regardless of version, the third-party applications add tools that Google has not added to the core of Apps (Google Docs, Presentations, Calendar, Gmail, etc.).
These tools range from simple expense reporting and invoicing for businesses to enhanced presentation software to full-blown CRM. Many are free and offer serious value adds for small businesses, but the majority use some sort of freemium model that makes them easy to try.
In fact, the ease with which they can extend the already highly capable Google Apps is possibly one of the Marketplace's greatest strengths. Within a few clicks, Gmail, Docs, and Calendar for your organization can become a deeply integrated social business platform, for example. Essentially, once Google opened the APIs to developers, the sky was the limit for the Apps Marketplace.
It hasn't been all rosy this past year. Google's add-on model has been criticized for taking a high-value (and possibly free, depending on the version) service like Apps and driving the cost per user up with a Christmas tree approach to adding functionality. A few too many clicks and suddenly $50/user/year could easily become $100/user/year if one wasn't careful about the particular apps being added. Those apps that simply leverage single sign-on, as well, tend to just clutter users browsers with extra tabs and outside services that just get to access your data. Google acknowledged this, though, in a recent blog post and video:
You’ve told us we’re on to something...what else have we learned? In a nutshell:
Web app adoption is accelerating across every business function and need
You value web apps that work together — what we call integrated apps (see video below)
It’s harder than ever to evaluate and select the right app, given the number of new apps coming to market, and their increasing specialization
With these learnings firmly in mind, we’re more excited than ever about our mission with Apps Marketplace, and are working on features to make it even easier for you to discover, evaluate and deploy web apps that integrate out of the box. Beyond single sign-on and quick access through our universal navigation bar, our best Marketplace apps synchronize data and offer integrated features designed to keep you and your users productive as you move closer to 100% web.
These issues aside, the Marketplace growth in just a year is pretty extraordinary. What's in store for next year? The video didn't offer many clues, but this sort of growth isn't usually just an aberration. Expect a lot more apps, with far greater sophistication in the months to come.