Today Salesforce.com announced a "global strategic alliance" (also known as a partnership) with Google, introducing a new integration point, Force.com Toolkit for Google Data APIs. The alliance allows developers using Salesforce.com's cloud-based development platform to integrate with data from Google services via Google Data APIs. This integration service is in addition to Salesforce for Google Apps, which integrates Google's suite of applications with Salesforce.
CODA, which is developing a financial suite of applications on the Salesforce platform (Force.com), has developed a prototype that takes data from Google Spreadsheets and brings it into an Order-to-Cash module.
This latest coupling with Google is part of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff's quest to remake the software world and replace Microsoft as a leading business software platform for building any kind of application. Remaking the software world means moving from client/server solutions to multitenant, cloud-based, on-demand, software-as-a-service, utility computing, platform-as-a-service applications or whatever assemblage of words describes Web-centric computing. They could also be called "server/client" systems, since Salesforce.com, Google, and others offer offline access to the applications.
Part of Benioff's strategy over the years has been to draw attention to his company by picking on his biggest potential competitor--Microsoft. His mantra is "the end of software," referring to the kind of client/server applications embodied by Microsoft Office. In a March interview with CNET News.com, Benioff said:
I think Microsoft is still a dinosaur. More than ever, it tries to hold onto its monopolistic position around technology that they hold, whether it's SQL Server, whether it's NT, whether it's Windows, whether it's Office--these are their cash cows they don't want slaughtered.
The other part of Benioff's strategy is to align with Google against Microsoft. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so that makes Google my best friend," Benioff has said.
But the reality is that Microsoft Office is an essential part of the Salesforce ecosystem. Benioff told me that a very large percentage of our customers do integrate with Microsoft's desktop apps. But he seems to be encouraging customers to abandon Microsoft Office and adopt Google's applications.
Benioff touts that the most downloaded applications in the Force.com AppExchange are related to Google, such as Appirio Calendar Sync for Salesforce and Google Apps and Gmail to Salesforce Browser Button for Firefox. But Microsoft's popular Word and Excel integration for Salesforce.com is not available via the AppExchange, so it's unclear as to how it compares in terms of usage to the Google-related products in AppExchange.
Benioff has been visionary in pushing a new model for business applications and adept at generating headlines. But it is way too early to count Microsoft out. This is just the beginning of a new software era, and Microsoft hasn't yet decided to make it more interesting, but it will.