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July 2010 | Volume 2/Number 4
Publisher's Outlook

A Second Look at Google's (News - Alert) Apps Marketplace

By Rich Terhani

Recently I wrote about the Google Apps Marketplace and how it brings a walled garden approach to the desktop, and my thesis revolved around the idea that a few years back you could download any piece of software you wanted without having to go through a gatekeeper. I am not a fan of censorship of any kind; after experiencing a world where I could download any application to any computer I own, I am now seeing that this situation has changed for the worse.

I am fine with the idea that Apple (News - Alert) likes to protect its users by screening for malicious software, but many of my readers tell me they are very uncomfortable with the censoring of apps that Apple deems offensive, sexually suggestive and/or competitive. I also have complained endlessly about not being able to use Flash on the iPad, and I remain terribly frustrated whenever I encounter a site I cannot see properly because Steve Jobs (News - Alert) made the conscious decision to exclude this software.

So I was obviously concerned about the fact that the Google Apps Marketplace requires approval from the search company, and I wasn't bashful mentioning it. From my perspective, the Apple model of censorship was expanding to other platforms, which for me raised an alarm. But recently I had a chance to catch up with Scott McMullan (News - Alert), who is the Google Apps partner lead at Google Enterprise, to learn more about Google's approach to the software market, and I was pleasantly surprised with the conversation. McMullan explains the goal of the company's program is to reduce friction for customers – and the low $100 fee for approval helps to keep out phishers, spammers, etc. In addition, he explains the sole reason for an approval process is to ensure new apps do allow a single sign-on.

When I described my concern about how Apple is getting more and more closed with its various programs from apps to ads, McMullan replied, "We are actively not doing what you said." He adds that: "That is an environment we are trying to escape."

It is worth noting the company is not currently checking new applications technically for malicious intent, but it does look at the reputation of the publisher. Another point he emphasizes is that the approval process is a nonissue. In other words, the company is not looking to be a censor, it is instead looking to help apps interoperate. One of Google's goals is to use the most open path, allowing the developer to use the same framework in other contexts. This seems to be the opposite of the Apple approach, where the company looks to have developers use unique tools specific to the iPod/iPad/iPhone (News - Alert) environments.

In the CRM, OSS, VoIP and UC spaces there have been billions of dollars spent on integration in the past decade or so, and having seamless integration between apps without the need for teams of integrators means that smaller companies will be now able to leverage integrated solutions that bridge disparate software categories – something once available only to the Fortune 1,000. Moore's Law has allowed the same sort of thing to happen in computing, and IP communications has allowed SMBs to now have access to productivity tools that were once the exclusive domain of corporate giants.

I wonder if app interoperability isn't the most important benefit of this transition. What massive increases in productivity can we expect to reap as this move continues? McMullan mentions we are in the early days of app integration and cloud-based delivery models. I agree. Just imagine how much faster and more efficient companies of the future will be as they use a wizard to solve their software needs rapidly by checking boxes on a Web browser. This may be really bad news for high-priced consultants, but for companies of all sizes, it means there will be opportunity to do more with less.

So is this a walled garden approach? Somewhat. But if Google isn't restricting apps based on content then I am not very concerned.

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