Google Apps For Work Passes 2M Paid Businesses, Now Vets And Recommends 3rd-Party Apps

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Last month, Google made a bold move to win over more business customers using cloud-based apps by making Google Apps for Work free for any company that is still under contract with a rival like Microsoft of Amazon. Today, Google — which now has 2 million paying businesses using Google Apps for Work (5 million+ if you include free users) — is raising its enterprise game again.

To attract more customers — and more software makers to develop apps for the platform — Google is announcing a new program for vetting and recommending third party apps alongside the native apps and products made by Google itself.

It’s starting with recommendations for eight apps that it says have passed security and performance tests: ProsperWorks for CRM, Smartsheet for project management, Ringcentral and Switch for cloud-based communications, AODocs and Powertools for document management, and Ping Identity and Okta for identity and access management.

Alongside this, Google is also today tinkering with discoverability in its wider Apps Marketplace, while also strengthening the link between it and Android: it will now start to feature enterprise apps that also have Google Play for Work counterparts.

The moves fall in line with how Google’s competitors are working to provide more tailored experiences for enterprises versus consumers. Apple, in partnership with IBM, started to recommend specific enterprise apps for its own iOS and Mac devices as far back as December 2014.

The timing for Google’s news is also possibly strategic: Google has chosen to make its Apps for Work announcements on the same day that Dropbox is having an event highlighting itself as a platform for businesses who want to do work in the cloud.

Stick and Carrot

Google’s news highlights how the company is essentially taking a carrot and stick approach to growing is enterprise business.

The wider Google Apps Marketplace — which competes with the likes of the AWS Marketplace, Salesforce and other cloud storage platforms that offer businesses an easy way to integrate apps that they may already be using — already provides over 750 apps to businesses to integrate with Google Apps for Work.

But as Rahul Sood, Google Apps for Work MD, notes, breadth doesn’t always translate to usability. “It can be difficult to assess which apps are secure, reliable, high-performing and well-integrated with the tools customers use most. And many businesses have neither the time nor the capability to do this assessment across all of the apps they might consider,” he writes.

Google is essentially positioning itself as a reliable source for vetting which apps may work best with its existing Google Apps framework in tandem with the various native apps that Google itself makes and provides.

“These apps are reviewed by Google and an independent third-party security firm to make sure that these solutions are safe and reliable, and meet our requirements for high quality integrations,” Sood writes. (I have asked Google for the name of the security firm, and will update if I hear back on this point.) Getting customers to use more apps is one way of tying them closer to Google’s platform, and potentially getting them to pay for higher service levels over time.

On the other side of the equation, Google is also using this program to encourage more software makers to work on its platform.

This is something that Google has been working for a while to improve. It launched a Technology Track for Google for Work partners back in March 2014, as a way to reward software publishers who chose to integrate Google App Services APIs. Perks have included technical, marketing and sales support and premier placement in the Google Apps Marketplace. Now to sweeten the deal even more, those who partner may also get cherry-picked as a Google recommended app, complete with security and product endorsements that will go some way in helping those apps stand out from the crowd.

The catch, or possible implication, in both of Google’s new recommendation services, is that at some point, if this takes hold, enterprises may start to look first to Google’s recommended apps, overlooking others in the Marketplace as a result.

This, in turn, will inevitably lead more apps to working closer with Google in hopes of also getting an endorsement from the platform giant. It’s a way for Google to grow its ecosystem, but also a way to make sure that Google remains firmly in control of it, too.