Independent software vendors are increasingly looking at a new source of tools for their applications and their operations: Google.
Best known for its search offerings, Google is has been creating or acquiring technologies through its Google Labs division (http://labs.google.com)ranging from online word processors to video purchasing and making them available for developers, largely for free in so-called prototypes.
But a number of ISVs think some can be included in their software.
Prophix Software of Mississauga, Ont., for example, is examining whether Google Spreadsheets, which allow users to create and store spreadsheets on the Web, could be the front-end to a future version of its upcoming Prophix for Microsoft SQL Server performance management application. An overhaul of its current product, Prophix Enterprise, it will have a spreadsheet-like interface from a third party.
That got the company wondering if the browser-based Google Spreadsheets could be the interface, said Bally Boodram, the company’s director of product management, because many Prophix users need to access the application away from their offices.
The remote availability of data makes the Google application appealing, he said. “You’d have a spreadsheet wherever you connect from, and whatever machine you’re using can get back to the spreadsheet you’re working on.”
The upcoming Microsoft Office 2007, which includes the Excel spreadsheet will have Excel services allowing remote connectivity, but Boodram said most Prophix users don’t need its hundreds of formulas and features. Excel is “not out of the picture,” he added.
“We’re just doing R and D work and we’ll decide which way we want to go,” he said. For now the first version of Prophix for SQL Server, due at the end of September, won’t have either Google or Excel spreadsheet interfaces.
Prophix’s interest in Google backs up research being completed this month by Softletter, a Dedham, Mass., biweekly publication for ISVs.
According to editor Dan Rosenberg, 40 per cent of respondents to an online survey of subscribers said they are interested in at least one of Google’s technologies for inclusion in their software or to help advertise their company’s Web site.
Twenty per cent of respondents said they have already released non-commercial software that includes Google technologies. Five per cent have released commercial software with a Google tool, which he assumes means Google Earth Pro, a licenced version of its map and satellite image service.
Fully 29 per cent of respondents said they are experimenting with or considering using Google tools for their software.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is (Google) has gone from simply arranging information on the Web to putting up a platform,” Rosenberg said in explaining why Softletter conducted the survey.
He admires its strategy. In creating browser add-ons and making them available for developers to play with for free, he said, Google is using viral marketing to spread and evaluate its technologies.
He also agreed that the strategy is a challenge to Microsoft, IBM and others who sell search, spreadsheet advertising and other tools.
“We’re at the beginning of a wave,” said Rosenberg. “I can’t tell you how permanent that wave is, but a new platform is always interesting, particularly if it’s browser-based.”
Prophix was one of the few Canadian ISVs that responded to the Softletter survey. Another was Andrew Bates, president of Softrak Systems Inc. of Vancouver, which makes a Windows-based accounting suite called Adagio. Like many businesses, the company has been using Google’s advertising tools to prominently place its name in Google searches. But it also uses links to Google Maps on its Web site so people can find the locations of Softrak user seminars across the country.
Some Softrak users might appreciate including a Google map location capability within the application for locating their customers, he added. However, he’s not seriously considering it now because for that feature users would need broadband access, he said, and accounting departments are often denied use of the Internet for security .