Online giant Google and CRM provider Saleforce.com this week announced an expanded partnership between the two companies in which Salesforce.com will include Google's Web-based Google Apps productivity suite in the package of software services it provides to customers. The new agreement dramatically expands the reach of Google's solutions with businesses via the emerging market for cloud computing.

"Google and Salesforce.com have always had similar models and philosophies about delivering innovations made possible by the Internet," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "Salesforce.com was a pioneer in Software-as-a-Service and a year ago we joined them in this mission to bring the benefits of cloud computing to businesses of all types. Together, we are making more applications and services available online so customers can focus on building their core business rather than the applications that support it."

Previous to this expanded partnership, Google was primarily targeting individuals, educational institutions, and small businesses with the Google Apps suite, which runs in a Web browser and is hosted on Google's servers. Google Apps consists of the Gmail email service, Google Calendar, Google Talk instant messaging, and Google Docs, which provides Web-based word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation solutions.

The initiative is directly aimed at Microsoft, which made its fortune selling operating systems and productivity software to the same types of businesses that Google and Salesforce.com are now targeting. Microsoft has formed similar partnerships with Oracle and SAP. But these solutions require software downloads and management. What's interesting about the Salesforce.com/Google Apps combination is that it lives entirely in the Internet cloud. So customers who do adopt this solution can get up and running immediately without downloading or installing anything on individual desktops.