Google-Salesforce details: We love the cloud, we love each other

Executives from Google and Salesforce took the stage in San Francisco today to celebrate what they’re saying is the impending death of desktop software. The newest nail in the coffin? The integration of Google Apps into Salesforce’s customer relations management service, as outlined by Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff (pictured, left), Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and others, who also offered jabs at software giant Microsoft.

There was a lot of mutual love in the air — Schmidt and Google Enterprise Vice President Dave Girouard both said that Salesforce’s software-as-a-service business model paved the way for Google Apps, especially for turning Apps into an enterprise-level offering. Benioff, meanwhile, got personal, describing Schmidt as a longtime friend.

What they didn’t get into were many specifics about how, from the business side, the Google-Salesforce partnership will work. For one thing, when the announcement hit last night, I predicted that someone would ask if Google plans to buy Salesforce, but, well, I was wrong. It turns out attendees weren’t interested in getting the inevitable “no comment” and focused instead on the announcement at hand.

Someone did ask about about the details of Salesforce’s and Google’s revenue sharing (basic Apps integration is free to Salesforce customers, but the company will eventually start charging $10 per customer per month for a premium service). Benioff wouldn’t say, and Girouard only noted that Google focuses on developing products first and figures that “business will follow,” which makes it sound like Google’s cut isn’t very large.

Last year, we wondered whether Salesforce has much to offer Google, but this deal seems like a win for both companies. Integrating Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Talk opens up some new functionality to Salesforce customers — all of your Gmail and Google Talk correspondence relating to a particular customer can now be stored in Salesforce, for example. More importantly, bringing everything together in a single package and a single interface creates a real incentive for businesses to make “a hard commitment” to doing business in the Internet cloud, Girouard said. It could be particularly important in getting bigger companies — an area where Goolge Apps is still trying to make inroads — to make the switch.

Executives from both companies also made it clear that they’re targeting Microsoft. In some cases, the digs were implicit, if not exactly subtle, as when Benioff said “the standard bearers of the old industry” (read: Microsoft) were too busy protecting their “cash cows” (read: Office) to offer any decent software-as-a-service. Sometimes the antipathy was little more open, as when Benioff said he isn’t interested in a similar integration with Microsoft: “The last I heard, Microsoft Live was dead.”

Benioff also touted Google Apps’ integration into Salesforce’s Force.com platform, where developers can build applications and sell them via Salesforce’s AppExchange. Two startups were showcased at the presentation — Appirio, which offers four apps including a marketing campaign timeline for Google Calendar, and Astadia, whose app allows companies to quickly compile and collaborate on business quotes — but there seems to be lots of opportunity to build much more.