Google Apps Makes Itself a Platform for Outside Apps

Google Apps is moving closer to being an integrated corporate dashboard with the announcement tonight of Google Apps Marketplace at a developer event at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The company will give vendors multiple hooks into its own products, handle billing and take a 20 percent cut of revenue in return. Apps, which is now used by more than 2 million businesses and this weekend crossed the mark of 25 million business users, will support enterprise resource management, document management, security and compliance, and a variety of other outside products — about 50 at launch.

Though Google had previously offered some enterprise application partnerships with companies like Salesforce and a “solutions marketplace” that linked to outside products, and users themselves could add gadgets they chose, the new Apps Marketplace integration is deeper. Once installed by a corporate admin, vendors’ apps will show up in a drop-down menu alongside Google’s own offerings at the top of every Apps page.

Outside apps will have multiple points of contact with Google, both within their own environment and in email, with logins coordinated through OAuth. So, for instance, you could have a Google-made app like chat or docs show up within an outside product management tool — Atlassian rigged this to pop up a chat session with a developer every time his or her build breaks. Or, soon, developers will be able to trigger their own widgets within emails — just like YouTube links turn into embedded videos in Gmail. Right now there’s no mobile app integration but that could be a future addition, said engineering director David Glazer on a call earlier today.

Google will charge vendors a one-time listing fee of $100 and make them undergo an approval process in order to ensure their apps are business-oriented. Starting later this year, it will integrate billing and collect 20 percent of revenue generated, by whatever method vendors choose — freemium, monthly, use-based or user-based, Glazer said. You’d think that would have been ready for launch, but for now vendors will have to handle their own billing.

I’m on record saying I would love to see my colleagues’ travel plans on our communal calendar via TripIt, which is a launch partner. Our technical guru Chancey tells me he’ll happily integrate products we already use like MailChimp and EchoSign, also launch partners. Another thing that might be super useful would be corporate social tools, though Google has already said it will put Buzz in Apps. Still, the marketplace is trying to welcome direct competitors, with Zoho a launch partner as well. It will also be interesting to see which larger, more powerful companies sign on to be in Google’s sandbox — Intuit is already on board with its online payroll.

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