The SaaS Fight for the Enterprise Continues – Google Antes Up (Again)
Google continued to make its run at the enterprise last week, following up the splashy Google Sites launch with the quieter introduction of some new tools and APIs for Google Apps. These include a new tool that will enable two-way syncing between Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, as well as a new Google Contacts Data API that provides secure, programmatic access to contacts in a Google address book. This enables developers to access and share contacts between different applications (e.g. social networking sites, contact managers), without providing full access to a user’s Google account. There is a great Wired blog on why this is so important.
If You Build It They Will Come
This closes an important gap in Google’s API coverage for Apps, and like the introduction of Google Sites last week, should increase enterprise interest in Google Apps. Not that they need much help. Google already has over 500,000 businesses using Google Apps and claims to add over 2,000 businesses each day. This easily puts them at over a million users and growing rapidly.
This kind of growth shows that customers are becoming much more comfortable moving their email, calendar, contacts and documents to the cloud. It’s enough to motivate traditional software juggernauts like Microsoft and IBM to sit up, take notice and react. Last week Microsoft continued their dance toward their version of SaaS, which they call “software plus services,” with a beta version of a Microsoft-hosted SharePoint and Exchange.
With all the recent SaaS talk from traditional on-premise vendors, it’ll be interesting to watch the battle. We believe Google has a head start for a few reasons.
- Google makes it easy for their applications to work with other systems – the new Calendar Sync tool and Contacts API are great examples of this. Google also makes it extremely simple to migrate data over from existing applications, which is critically important for enterprises.
- Google is focused solely on the SaaS model and they are well aware of the requirements to make that model work. As we’ve said in the past, vendors that try to split their focus between on-premise and on-demand will have a difficult time succeeding without making significant changes to the way they develop and sell their products, and how they service their customers. This is a difficult task for those who must protect existing on-premise cash cows.
- Google has made it clear that they’re investing heavily in this area with new services like Google Sites and recent acquisitions like Postini. Most importantly, they have the resources and the experience to make it successful. With the rate of innovation coming from Google, we’re sure competitors will need to stay on their toes.