Cloud // Software as a Service
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9/4/2008
10:17 AM
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Google Chrome Will Challenge Some SaaS Providers

Google Chrome could help Salesforce.com, DemandTec, and other SaaS vendors evolve their offerings, but it also presents problems.

Google Chrome presents a double-edged sword for software as a service providers. As an open, modern software browser, it has the potential to improve their customers' cloud computing experiences. Yet it's one more browser that will eventually consume SaaS providers' developer resources.

Adam Gross, VP of developer marketing at Salesforce.com, has experimented a bit with Google Chrome. "I'm very excited by what I've seen," he said. "All this new innovation and technology." Google's open-source approach means other Web browsers will benefit from its innovations, he added.

Gross's enthusiasm could be influenced by the fact that Salesforce.com is among Google's closest allies in the enterprise software market; the two worked together to integrate Google Apps with Salesforce.com CRM. But there are no immediate plans for any sort of enterprise partnership deal with Chrome. Salesforce.com is "looking at Chrome like everyone else," Gross said.

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Particularly important, Gross said, was Google's emphasis on developing Chrome to access Web applications, not just view content. Although JavaScript already is being pushed to its limits by some Web applications, he said, Google, Apple, and other Web browser developers are doing a good job of capitalizing on the technology to make the Web experience more interactive. Further, Web browsers need to continue to evolve to support the fledgling world of enterprise software mashups.

"As we are increasingly dependent on Web apps, how business users use Web browsers changes," Gross said. "It speaks to a world not about Web sites you visit once, but apps like Salesforce or Gmail that you live in all day, every day."

About half of Salesforce.com customers use Internet Explorer 6 to access its software, one-third use IE7, and about 14% use Firefox, according to a Salesforce.com blog. Use of IE6, however, dropped 14 percentage points in the last year, with users shifting to IE7 or Firefox. It's a good trend for Salesforce.com, considering that the older IE 6 browser has a hard time handling JavaScript and has created challenges for Salesforce.com developers.

Another Browser To Support

While the emergence of Chrome and its overall impact on the browser market should improve SaaS user experiences and possibilities, it also creates challenges. "There's the question: Does the world need another browser, or should Google have just participated in another project?," said Alan Coleman, CTO at DemandTec, which provides various SaaS applications to the retail and consumer goods industries. "When I first heard the announcement I thought, 'Why not just help the Firefox guys out?'" Another browser means SaaS companies need to spend time and effort, and precious research and development funds, understanding and dealing with Chrome's specific idiosyncrasies.

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