How Google Inc. Is Targeting Salesforce.com

You know all that talk about how Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) is challenging Facebook and Twitter to be king of social media? Forget it. The search star has another target in mind: salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) . Or at least that's the read I get from the planned upgrade to Google+ for business customers. The list includes:

  • Enhanced privacy settings for limiting sharing of sensitive corporate information.

  • More control over who sees profiles and who gets access to Hangouts on Air.

  • Additional features for hosting and joining private Hangouts, including limiting access to only those users tied to your domain.

What's all this for? Connecting workers, apparently. "Google+ premium features make it even easier for Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government users to share and collaborate with each other, while ensuring that confidential information stays inside their organization," the company says at its site advertising the new version. Salesforce used to call this enabling the "social enterprise."

CEO Marc Benioff shifted the narrative last year after finding that the term "social enterprise" confused prospects and customers. Nevertheless, there's growing demand for collaborative software. Researcher MarketsandMarkets predicts that total spending on Enterprise Social Software will grow from $4.77 billion this year to $8.14 billion by 2019.

Meanwhile, the changes to Google+ come barely a month after the network's internal champion, Vic Gundotra, announced plans to leave Google. Pundits went on to question the network's future without fully considering just how much progress Gundotra's team has made. Now it's clear that much of the skepticism was unwarranted.

Should Salesforce investors take Google's challenge seriously? Not yet. As much as I believe in the search king's ability to disrupt an industry, Benioff has taken dramatic steps to diversify the business. Customer service, social marketing, and cloud software development tools are now also Salesforce core competencies. So long as the underlying platform continues to be about more than internal team collaboration, the business should continue to thrive.

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