IT departments can now build custom applications for Google Apps and integrate them with the cloud-based collaboration and communication suite in the same way that commercial software vendors do.
The functionality comes via the new Google Apps Extension Console, a developer tool the company describes as a "project control panel" for building in-house extensions for the Google suite.
The console gives IT departments access to the same APIs (application programming interfaces) that Google makes available to software vendors that put their applications on the Apps Marketplace.
With the console, internal developers will be able to create complementary Apps applications that, for example, share with the Google suite a single sign-on, appear as a link on the main Apps navigation bar or run within Gmail.
"The extensions console helps in-house developers create new projects, manage team permissions, retrieve OAuth credentials, and upload their application manifest. Once the app is ready to deploy, administrators can install the app to their domain control panel for wider release," wrote Andrew Wansley, an official with Google's developer team, in a blog post.
In another related announcement relevant for IT departments that use Apps, Google said on Wednesday that as of August 1, it will no longer guarantee that the suite will work properly with several browsers: Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, and Safari 3. On the same day, Google will also adopt a policy to only support the two most recent versions of browsers -- the current one and the previous one -- Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.
"Each time a new version is released, we'll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version," wrote Venkat Panchapakesan, a Google Vice President of Engineering, in a blog post.
The reason behind these moves is the need for Google Apps to tap into the latest browser advancements, especially in HTML5, according to Panchapakesan.
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