Email as an Enterprise Platform

Interesting post today on Google's Blog announcing their new Gmail APIs. These new services allow Gmail to be extended by means of content-aware Contextual Gadgets (such as the preview capability we have already seen demonstrated with embedded YouTube, Google Docs and Picasa content before).

Excerpted from the Google Blog.

Starting today, third party developers can build Gmail contextual gadgets and distribute them in the Google Apps Marketplace. These gadgets can display information from social networks, business services, web applications and other systems, and users can interact with that data right within Gmail. Contextual gadgets are yet another example how the power of the web can outpace traditional business technology.

Several new contextual gadget integrations for Gmail are available to Google Apps customers in the Apps Marketplace today:

  • AwayFind lets you mark certain contacts or message topics as ‘Urgent’ and then alerts you via phone, SMS or IM when relevant messages arrive.
  • Kwaga displays social network profiles and lists recent email exchanges with people you correspond with.
  • Gist brings together information from across the web about people you’re corresponding with, providing rich person and company profiles, news and updates.
  • Pixetell detects email links to video messages created with Pixetell’s video software and lets you preview, comment on, and share those videos without leaving your inbox.
  • Smartsheet lets you access and update entries in Smartsheet’s sales pipeline and project management tool.
  • Xobni, Rapportive, Manymoon, Newmind Group, and BillFLO have also launched their own contextual gadget integrations
Like any other applications in the Google Apps Marketplace, a Google Apps domain administrator can install a contextual gadget from the Marketplace with just a few clicks. Both before and during the install process, administrators can review the portions of an email the gadget will have access to, and can revoke that permission at any time from their control panel. For more information on the Google Apps marketplace, watch the overview video.

To learn more about the new contextual gadget applications available in Gmail, head to the Google Apps Marketplace and browse for apps that have ‘Mail Integration’.

Google is working hard to demonstrate the power of the open web, not only to provide compelling differentiation for its apps, but also to evangelize the concept in general. At its heart, this is really an example of the power of the App as a platform vs. the App as a closed ecosystem. It's also part of Google's relentless march towards demonstrating that the web is a credible (in fact preferred) vehicle for the delivery of application functionality.

It remains to be seen how quickly enterprises will Google's apps and the Open Cloud however, with security and other issues being a natural drag on early adoption. Google is betting however that the ingenuity of the developer ecosystem will eventually create such an array of value/ROI that it will be hard to resist.