Updated April 14, 5:20 AM PDT to reflect official announcement.
It has hardly been a well-kept secret. Now, Salesforce.com and Google have made it official: they're linking up to offer Salesforce's CRM (customer relationship management) applications with integrated Google Apps.
The companies on Monday announced that Salesforce.com's customers now have the option of using versions of Google Apps, Gmail, Calendar, and Google Talk that are tightly linked to Salesforce.com (see Techmeme for more coverage).
What does that mean? An e-mail response from a customer can be appended to the customer information stored within Salesforce.com, meaning that all customer interaction can be accessed from a single place, for instance. That dynamic applies to Google Talk conversations and other applications, too.
This isn't a new function of Salesforce.com. The company has offered integration with Microsoft's Office and Outlook desktop applications for some time. But this is the company's first foray into offering a more wide-ranging Web-based application package, cutting the ties to desktop applications.
Salesforce.com says this isn't some marketing-driven move; its customers, through a Salesforce.com online forum called Idea Exchange, requested integration with Google Apps.
So will Salesforce.com make a similar deal with Microsoft for Office Live, the company's online complement to Office, when that becomes a more capable alternative to desktop apps? "Salesforce.com is open to working with a myriad of office applications. What made this possible is that Salesforce and Google...both deliver native Web applications," said Kraig Swensrud, vice president of Applications at Salesforce.com.
"We're looking to (Idea Exchange) for what people want us to build. People voted for Google Apps," he said. Swensrud expects that a "huge" percentage of Salesforce.com's customer base will be interested in the new feature.
Likewise, Google hasn't ruled out working with other partners. "We're committed to advancing the Web as the platform and partners are key to our growth, whether it's a developer doing custom applications and gadgets, a company like Appirio making calendar sharing even easier, or Salesforce.com deeply integrating Google Apps into their CRM products," said Scott McMullan, Google Apps partner lead, Google Enterprise.
Salesforce.com won't charge for the integration with Google Apps. Existing customers will get it for no additional charge. So far, 10 Salesforce.com customers have tested the integration in a beta test mode, said Swensrud.
There is a profit motive here, however. The company will offer a service called Salesforce for Google Apps Supported that will include telephone support for end users, unified billing and provisioning, and additional application programming interfaces for a fee of $10 per user, per month.