Analysts have broadly welcomed the trend towards partnerships between vendors in the growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) market.

The consensus follows yesterday’s hotly anticipated announcement that Google and Salesforce.com have formed a strategic global alliance. It has spawned a new edition of the customer relationship management (CRM) vendor’s small-to-medium sized business (SMB) software application, called 'Salesforce Group Edition featuring Google Adwords'.

The Adwords tie-up enables its users to make use of keyword ads in Google, bid for keywords in Google and set advertising budget within Salesforce. Salesforce will then automatically generate the HTML for a 'landing page' on your website, so that when a prospective customer arrives on the landing page, it asks them for their details and automatically generates a sales lead in Salesforce.com. Additionally, you can track the results for each keyword you have bought in Google via a new dashboard.

David Bradshaw, principal analyst at analyst Ovum commented: “Some may see this as an anti-climax, but clearly this is just a first step. As a first step in a long programme, the [new release] makes perfect sense. In an age when the web is becoming key to success in almost any market, making it easier for smaller companies to buy, use and monitor returns from Google Adwords is a very positive development. These types of companies will generally not have the technical or marketing skills to do it on their own. We therefore welcome this joint product from Salesforce and Google and look forward to more of the same.”

Helmuth Guembel, an analyst with Strategy Partners said the alliance was a great combination of service oriented architecture (SOA), internet and SaaS technology. Google also made its application programming interfaces available to Salesforce developers through its services-oriented AppExchange development platform. But Guembel also thinks the move will be disruptive beyond the SaaS space: “Hard times for CRM implementation companies are in sight – if it takes that little to do it, why waste time on alternatives?”

But the SaaS space is certainly hotting up, as Lindsay Armstrong, Salesforce.com co-president for Europe, Middle and Africa (EMEA) said the SMB market opportunity for SaaS was a large motivator in the alliance. “According to figures from IDC, there’s over $55 billion at stake in this market over the next five years,” she said. SaaS and SMB competitor, NetSuite shrugged off the Salesforce announcement.

Zach Nelson, NetSuite chief executive said: "I guess time will tell if this was meaningful. From the major news aspect of reselling Google, it's always challenging to sell someone else's product. So only time will tell how successfully Salesforce.com can sell Google Adwords."

He added that, from a technical perspective, most of the integration Salesforce talk about, including lead tracking, conversion history, return on investment and dashboard metrics, is something NetSuite customers get for free today with our Google integration. “We also do the same with Yahoo and Microsoft, so we don't exclude the other half of the market," said Nelson.

NetSuite recently unveiled an e-commerce tie-up of its own with eBay and has also quietly announced a technology alliance with Apple only this week, proving SaaS vendors are bringing out the big guns. It claims some “firsts and onlys” in the industry in regards to its partnership with Apple: the first and only on-demand business application that supports Safari natively; Apple will offer NetSuite in their flagship retail stores; and both Apple and NetSuite will jointly promote the SaaS vendor’s development platform, SuiteFlex to the Apple Developers Network.

Of the SuitFlex development, a NetSuite spokesman stated: “This is a really significant for the Apple developers community as those technologists will help verticalise and customise NetSuite to meet the needs of industry-specific businesses via the customisation and application development platform, SuiteFlex."

NetSuite’s latest e-commerce suite featuring eBay integration offers connectors built into the product to link with the online marketplace giant.