Hey Oracle - Salesforce Is Cozying Up to Google!
Last April 15, Salesforce.com announced 'Salesforce for Google Apps' as a new online service that helps Salesforce CRM users integrate with Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar and the Google productivity suite which includes Google Docs spreadsheet, presentations and word processing applications. Unfortunately, Google Apps users won't be able to leverage this CRM to desktop integration unless they subscribe to Salesforce.com.
Guy Creese, analyst and research director for Burton Group, summed it up best by stating that this press party is "an installed base play - non-Salesforce.com customers won't be touched by this initiative." While Google would like to use the on-demand software giant to get some traction into the enterprise market, Creese points out that Google Apps is still missing important enterprise features such as role-based administration, document records management and the ability to work offline. At this point, Google Apps does not compete well with Microsoft Office and is pretty much relegated to non-power users looking for free or cheap software.
However, the real story behind the media blitz is less about a hot-button interface between a CRM system and an area of the Google empire which has struggled to make even moderate inroads to the enterprise and more about a thoughtful merger and acquisition (M&A) strategy being carefully orchestrated by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
While many debate whether Benioff is a blow hard or a visionary, there's no denying he is a forward thinker and masterful and painting perception. Combine Benioff's marketing prowess and colorful articulation with the fact that many industry insiders believe Salesforce.com is for sale, or at least Benioff would like the company to sell, and you can begin to see the stage for a multiple bid acquisition opportunity. Benioff has pimped himself and Salesforce to Google for more than two years, however, the search engine giant shows no interest in bringing this CRM software company into its fold. The corporate cultures between the two Silicon Valley big wigs are seemingly opposite. Google operates with complete humility while Salesforce is clearly a gorilla marketer not hesitant to inflict personal jabs, drop provocative sound bytes, trade barbs with industry veterans or even commercialize the Dalai Lama. Salesforce.com's real sugar daddy is Oracle and former boss Larry Ellison. However, while Salesforce.com is reported to be in M&A discussions with Oracle, Benioff knows that without competition from another suitor, Oracle's impetus to act and valuation decline. I expect to see a few more Salesforce.com and Google announcements - each big on media and small on substance - but seemingly enough to get Oracle's attention.