Ask Google Marketplace launch partner Zoho (news, site) why they wanted to integrate with Google Apps, and they’ll tell you it’s because e-mail is the most critical browser tab there is in the business world. Confused? Zoho’s CEO Sridhar Vembu recently shed light on a choice many have made since the marketplace announcement, as well as offered his own opinion about the future of the enterprise (note: it doesn’t look like Facebook).  


In a recent blog post, Vembu explained that Zoho’s involvement with Google Apps is looked at from a Customer Relationship Management point of view, and so of course Salesforce.com was brought up. Specifically, the CEO’s infamous argument.

While Marc Benioff leads the pack of social network mimickers, Vembu believes e-mail is where the enterprise should be focusing its energy. “The most important browser tab, in a business context, is the one dedicated to email,” he wrote. “Salesforce.com has no e-mail strategy. It is natural for them to try to redefine the market away from e-mail and towards social networking.”

And furthermore:

“This is Salesforce's third attempt at making their CRM a business app platform, but unfortunately for them, e-mail is a far more natural starting point than CRM - we say that as a company that has a strong CRM suite. Besides, to be a real platform, you have to have a degree of openness, and our experience with Salesforce demonstrates the opposite, and sets up a direct contrast to Google's platform approach.”

A "real" platform? Ouch, Zoho. 

Contextual Integration

Many might agree that Salesforce.com doesn't have much of an e-mail strategy, but you certainly can't say the same about Google. But more importantly, it's the way their e-mail strategy fits in with their hold on contextual integration that's particularly compelling, and another selling point for Zoho.

Contextual integration, simply put, is what allows the most important information to be presented. For you Gmail users, think of how much you have at your fingertips when you login to your account. This one-browser-tab approach to design is contextual integration.

“For years, if you wanted to get information on customers, you had to go to your CRM system. If you wanted to get information on employees, you had to go to your HRIS system; if you wanted to read e-mail, you went to your e-mail client,” explained Vembu. “In the cloud, data is liberated so it can contextually go where it is the best fit.”

The Cloud

Our skies are heavy with potential, and it is the contextual integration concept that Vembu believes will act as the catalyst. We’re already seeing everything come together under one tab—e-mails, calendars, documents, CRM systems, project management, HR, etc.—and the Google Marketplace is certainly helping that vision along.

“...applications in the traditional sense take the back seat, and the user’s workflow and context dominate,” he continued. “The benefits are enormous, both for individual business users as well as for IT organizations. Individual users can get more done faster, with tools that get out of their way. IT organizations reap enormous productivity gains in systems integration.”

Can you find a reason to disagree? If so, we'd sure like to hear it. If not, how about a look at exactly how Zoho's integrating with Google Apps: