Comparing 6 Cloud App Marketplaces

Enterprise application marketplaces are sprouting up like Spring-time Daffodils. The latest entrant is Amazon Web Services’ AWS Marketplace. Amazon the e-tailer is no stranger to broad e-commerce initiatives, having conquered books, home goods, electronics, digital media and most recently mobile. (Aside: All indications show Amazon’s new Android Marketplace is off to a great start after a somewhat lukewarm industry reception.)

Many of the newest cloud apps are launched in the AWS cloud. AWS has done a great job courting startups onto their cloud platform. With the AWS Marketplace, Amazon is helping its customers be more successful by giving visibility to both small and large companies who choose AWS for their cloud infrastructure. The AWS Marketplace will also further cement customers into the AWS cloud, since Marketplace participation requires an AWS account. You can’t sell a non-AWS hosted application in the AWS Marketplace. Recently AWS has been publicly advocating the idea of “take your data/app” with you, but in reality moving a complicated SaaS application with a large data footprint from one cloud to another is no small feat. The AWS Marketplace is one more glue point between ISV and AWS.

Apple’s extremely successful iOS App Store, along with iTunes, paved the way for the current marketplaces targeting enterprise customers. Salesforce.com is the poster child for business application marketplace success.

I found six “cloud” themed business oriented marketplaces which are described below in alphabetical order. Across these six marketplaces we do see a recurring theme: marketplaces are tied to their underlying technical platforms, and there are none that support a “cross platform” environment. Google, Box and Salesforce each allow the others to sell into their customer base, but all require a technical hook into an API or account.

  • AWS Marketplace
  • Box.com OneBox
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Google Apps Marketplace
  • Salesforce.com AppExchange
  • Zoho

1. AWS Marketplace

What is it?

The AWS Marketplace aggregates and curates thousands of applications powered by the AWS cloud.

Amazon has powerful e-commerce tools for subscription management, billing, shopping carts and customer ratings which AWS customers can use to get more third-party customer traction. The AWS Marketplace compliments DevPay and paid AMI’s with a robust e-tailer user experience.

Requirements?

  • AWS Account
  • Application must be running within the AWS cloud

Pricing Model?

Application publishers choose their own price. Currently ISV’s can sell a paid AMI in which case Amazon generates revenue from the EC2 costs when the application is running on an EC2 instance. For turnkey SaaS applications, the AWS Marketplace acts like a referral business, in which case the revenue to AWS is indirect.

Interesting note:

The AWS Marketplace and Amazon Partner Network both launched within days of each other. Amazon is accelerating innovation on multiple fronts for its juggernaut cloud platform. The startup community is pretty much a lock-in. Now the goal is to expand to the enterprise, and Partner Network and Marketplace are two steps toward that goal.

2. Box.com

What is it?

Box.com offers business collaboration and file syncing services. Individuals are offered free 5Gb accounts, and enterprises can purchase paid accounts. Last month Box expanded their application marketplace with their “OneBox” initiative and is preparing to take on both Microsoft (Sharepoint) and Dropbox (Sync). Box allows both content creation as well as file storage. That’s a huge distinction between Dropbox, SugarSync, Egnyte, etc.

Requirements?

  • Box.com account
  • Application must

Pricing Model?

ISVs manage their own prices and revenue collection. The Box marketplace is a showcase for applications that use Box APIs. Apps can be another SaaS app like GDocs or a smart phone app like Evernote.

Interesting note:

Salesforce.com and Google Apps are both available in the Box.com marketplace.

 

3. Chrome Web Store

What is it?

It’s complicated. “The Chrome Web Store is an online marketplace where you can discover thousands of apps, extensions and themes for Google Chrome.” The five other cloud marketplaces don’t require a specific browser. Chrome Web Store is the opposite. It’s a marketplace for just the Chrome browser. But since the “apps” are run from the cloud, I included the it as one of the six online marketplaces. The web store is simple, almost elegant, and adding an app to Chrome is very easy. Google needs to clarify an application versus an extension since non-technical people don’t understand the nuanced differences.

Requirements?

  • Chrome Web Browser or Chromebook PC
  •  Google Account
  •  Chrome application, extension or theme

Pricing Model?

Despite the word “store” in the marketplace name, Google does not provide a direct billing system within the Chrome Web Store. Most applications appear to be free, and then the publisher can up sell a premium version directly.

Interesting note:

Chrome Browser is gaining popularity but the Chromebook OS netbook is struggling to find a place along-side Macbook Airs, iPads and Windows 7 netbooks.

 

4. Google Apps Marketplace

What is it?

Leave it to the company with two products named “Chrome,” two account management systems (Google regular and Google Apps), two operating systems (Android, Chrome OS) to provide TWO marketplaces. This is certainly the horn-of-plenty. The Google Apps Marketplace is the add-on store for the Google Apps eco-system. And it’s not connected to the Chrome Web Store, although many of the same apps appear in both places.

I love Google Apps. In fact I’m writing this post as a Google Document and then will paste into a WordPress post at final production. But Google can easily confuse the audience with too many choices and too many similar sounding product names.

The Google Apps Marketplace is pretty good. There are thousands of add-ons to GApps that take advantage of numerous APIs Google provides. Google is smart to realize that even a company of their size, with their vaunted 20% time, can’t do everything their customer’s desire. The Marketplace fills the gaps.

Requirements?

  • Google Apps Account
  • Must use Google Account for Single Sign On (i.e. you can ask your users to login separately from their Google authentication)

Pricing Model?

ISVs charge what they want and must bring their own billing and revenue collection. Google does not automatically hook the Apps Marketplace into the Google Checkout. As a developer one could use Google Checkout (or PayPal or Amazon,) but it’s not a requirement. Curious.

Interesting note:

Trust is a big factor. When adding an application from the Marketplace into a Google Apps Account, Google ensures you agree to allow the third-party application to have access (at least for Single Sign On.)

 

5. Salesfoce.com AppExchange

What is it?

Salesforce.com’s marketplace is called the AppExchange. It’s the “Granddaddy” of cloud application marketplaces, with over a million apps. Every startup working on a “platform” play wants to emulate Salesforce.com’s 4 part strategy to market domination: 1. Find a market to disrupt (CRM), 2. Establish a beachhead with a simple value proposition, 3. Scale up and out, 4. Pivot into a platform play (with a robust marketplace.) Easy, right? That’s another story.

Amazon has powerful e-commerce tools for subscription management, billing, shopping carts and customer ratings which AWS customers can use to get more customer traction. The AWS Marketplace compliments DevPay and paid AMI’s with a robust e-tailer user experience.

Requirements?

  • Salesforce.com account

Pricing Model?

The AppExchange offers both free and paid applications. Sf.com also upsells their own apps (Chatter, do.com, Heroku, etc.) in the marketplace. Most applications do the billing outside of the sf.com platform.

Interesting note:

An application marketplace’s success hinges on the confidence buyers have in the vendor’s reputation. In the cloud/SaaS world information security is an important consideration. Salesforce does the most to show how a third-party application uses the built-in sf.com security, and what data is exposed to the third-party application.

 

6. Zoho

What is it?

Zoho is an interesting SaaS service. From the cute name to the colorful child-letter blocks for the logo, the SaaS service offers an ambitious feature set with CRM, file sharing, collaboration and email. It’s based in India, and leverages a technology platform and “cloud” all built in-house. The Zoho Marketplace allows third-parties to use the Zoho Creator “app” to build other apps that solve a business problem.

Requirements?

  • Zoho Account
  • Applications are built with Zoho Creator

Pricing Model?

ISVs set their own price and bill the customers directly. Zoho makes money indirectly by increasing the user pack counts within a subscription.

Interesting note:

I’m surprised Zoho doesn’t have more mind share. I’m not sure if it’s because in the US they are too similar to Google Apps, or if it’s an issue of “trust” in the viability of a smaller, non-US company to be around for the duration. When choosing “sticky” apps such as email, collaboration and CRM, longevity is key.