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Salesforce, Google Head for 2nd on Apps

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The partnership between Google and Salesforce.com took another step forward with the announcement here that developers writing applications on the Force.com platform can now leverage Google APIs within their applications.

Previously, this had not been possible because the two systems, Force.com and Google APIs, could not communicate directly -- so a third-party server was needed to synchronize the data. The third party would pull data from one and push to the other, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), explained.

With the new, direct connection between the two, developers will be able to bring together data and content in Google Apps with the database, logic and workflow capabilities in Force.com, updating the content of Salesforce.com applications in real time.

"We see this as step one of our total vision of our Force.com platform and all of the things [Google] are working on," Benioff told the crowd at a developer conference here.

Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), painted the news as a victory for Software as a Service (SaaS) plays.

"Google also believes in this vision of SaaS," he told the crowd. "Both Salesforce.com and Google were born on the Web, we're native Web speakers, so we believe in this architecture model of delivering value to customers."

The two companies already have a lengthy relationship, going back several years. Most recently, they announced plans to offer Google Apps to Salesforce.com customers so customers "don't have to be installing more software," Benioff said at the time.

"Our work with Salesforce.com will help make cloud computing increasingly accessible and powerful for developers, resulting in better Web applications and experiences," Gundotra told InternetNews.com.

The metadata APIs from Google Apps means you can read the APIs directly from Google and Salesforce servers into your own developer tools, most notably Eclipse.

During his presentation at the developer conference, Benioff showed a demo in which all of the Google definitions, such as its calendar, could be read into the Eclipse IDE and then used to build Force.com apps.

The Google data APIs are built on top of the Atom publishing protocol, a more modern version of the RSS protocol used to syndicate newsfeeds.

Using them, developers will be able to access Google Data APIs directly from Salesforce.com's APEX programming language, Ariel Kelman, senior director of platform product marketing at Salesforce.com, told InternetNews.com.

"Part of why we do this is that six out of the top ten applications on AppExchange bring together Force.com and Google," Kelman added. AppExchange is Salesforce.com's directory.

CODA, one of Europe's leading financial applications providers, was present to show off its Web application prototype, CODA 2go, a financial invoicing application built on Force.com and Google Spreadsheets. All invoicing in the app is done in Google's spreadsheets and then translated to Salesforce.com CRM. An invoice can then be generated, which could be printed and sent to the customer.

Jeremy Roche, CEO of the firm, told the crowd that using Salesforce with Google Apps saved him two years and untold dollars over doing the job on his own.

"We wanted to do for accounting what Salesforce did for CRM ... but we needed two years to build it," he said. "We wanted to get to market with a product, not spend years of our lives on infrastructure. So the alternative was to do a deal with Salesforce and borrow their platform."

However, the news doesn't mean Salesforce will restrict itself to working only with Google.

In the future, Salesforce expects developers to be able to pick from a wide array of cloud computing platforms to create applications that leverage the best services available, Kelman said.

"We'll have other things coming down in the future," he said.

Such developments may also make it more appealing for enterprises to work closely with Google, according to Rick German, CEO of Stoneware, which has integrated Salesforce.com's applications into its virtual Web desktop, webOS.

"We see hosted applications as a new application the enterprise will be responsible for delivering, because it simplifies management for both Google and the enterprise," German told InternetNews.com.

"An end user can log in to his company and hook up to Google Apps through that, and the company doesn't have to be concerned about their going to Google Apps from the outside," he said. "Meanwhile, Google will see him as a trusted user without having to re-authorize him."

The Force.com Toolkit for Google Data APIs is available as a free download from both Salesforce and Google. Applications can be published on either the Google section of AppExchange or on the search engine's Solutions Marketplace.

Benioff today also announced that Force.com would introduce a feature to help sell natively third-party apps written on Force.com as though they were Salesforce applications.

He said that enhancement, dubbed Checkout, would be introduced at the company's Dreamforce conference in November.