A few months ago, Google launched the Google Apps Marketplace, a list of additional services grafted on Google Apps, and offered by third party publishers. Google Apps became then a complete “platform” ecosystem, aligned with new mobile’s app stores paradigm, or like force.com offers from Salesforce.
It is clear that this platform vision is a real success. This success is due to its ease of adoption, thanks to the fact that the applications are hosted, available as SaaS and Clouds. One click and any application you need for your information system becomes available.
Google, always one step ahead
Google is once again one step ahead of its competitors, Microsoft and IBM, who are launching their own equivalents of Google Apps.
What do we find in the Google Apps Marketplace? CRM services, mind-maps services, drawings services, enterprise social networking-class services, projects management services, billing and bookkeeping services, e-mailing services, workflow services,..
All these services have access to your Google Apps data, and can actually interact with your mail or documents data. For example, the workflow services will be able to read or write the informations in your spreadsheets documents and automate a number of tasks for supplying or collecting data, with validation by different people following a determined process.
For example, a small company that is starting its business and wants to build a solid and modern information system to support its activity, will only have to license Google Apps, CRM, billing, bookkeeping, e-mailing and workflow related services. This will equip it as well as a much larger company having invested huge amounts of money to build a similar architecture, with the help of a team of IT specialists to manage the whole thing. Here, the services are available without maintenance, software updates, storage costs, or IT staff dedicated to its support. The goal is direct effectiveness and more reliability that any traditional IT department could deliver.
All this was impossible just a few months ago. We are witnessing an unprecedented democratization of business information systems.
This will forever change the computing landscape and provide real opportunities for all organizations, regardless of the size and budget, to work with professional tools in all areas of their information system. This should substantially increase the performance of the enterprises and their impact on the global economy. First the Web has allowed SMBs to reach unexplored markets (the long tail effect), now Cloud Services and platforms allow them to manage advanced information systems that they couldn’t afford in the past.
What price for the services of the Marketplace?
Marketplace services generally aim to offer relatively low cost of entry, but it is not clear that all the providers of such services are adopting the right business models. Keeping in mind that Google Apps are charged at 40€ per year per user, we can easily think that additional services will be charged at a lower price than the Google Apps licenses. It is the case of services like RunMyProcess (30€/ year per user) or SocialWok ($36/year per user). But there are also many other services that charge as much as $10/month per user.
Some Google Apps additional services cost 2 to 4 times more than Google Apps, is it justified? If the client must license multiples services together, the cost may soon be relatively important, and will slow the rate of adoption, at least for small businesses.
I think that some of the service providers have not really taken a comprehensive view of the market, and, as there is no established competition either, the market is not self-regulating yet. The experience of the Apple store shows how the prices have evolved after its launch: Low prices quickly became the norm, because developers quickly realized it was better to sell more units at a lower price. Competition has accelerated this realization. It seems that many of the participants in the Google Apps Marketplace have not fully accepted this yet, which will undoubtedly slow down their adoption rate.
The ExamGeneral example
At Kimind, we encourage our clients to go forward and integrate this market reality in the definition of their online business services. That’s what we did with ExamGeneral, a specialized service for creating and taking online tests and exams. It has been designed by Kimind, then realized and produced on behalf of the Californien start-up ExamGeneral. Since March, when the Marketplace preview was presented, we submitted the initial functional specifications for the management team, with associated business model, in order to demonstrate the significant potential for ExamGeneral to thrive with the online release of such an additional service.
In addition, as ExamGeneral addresses mainly the education market, there is a double benefit. Google Apps for Education is used by more than 8 million students around the World. ExamGeneral can reach this market at once, just by being present in the Google Apps Marketplace
Our teams are currently working on the realization of the interface with Google Apps, and ExamGeneral should be available in the marketplace by mid-September. The integration is made at several levels: first at the user authentication level, which relies on Google’s; then it gets into the data itself, where teachers can link their courses and their documents reviews from their Google Docs; finally the test results will be automatically loaded into a Google Spreadsheet to be consolidated and shared.
ExamGeneral is a perfect example of Integration of an external service to the marketplace, which will benefit both from the Google ecosystem to increase its market presence, and make additional services available to users that ExamGeneral would not have developed on their own. Google will thus indirectly propose an online review service backed by Google Apps to its millions of users .
If you are a SaaS provider and you’re reading these lines, give a lot of thought about taking advantage of this opportunity. Your decisions will help shape the market, which is still in early stages. When competitors from different domains have come to the Marketplace, it will be harder to differentiate your business proposition. But for now, it has just started, and it is the right time to invest. Furthermore, projects usually have short term objectives, so the first level of adaptation is simple, and the rest can be developed incrementally.
Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss and brainstorm on the different possible options.