ASCII Group Helps Google Find Place in the ChannelBy Michael Vizard | Print
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Opinion: It's encouraging to see Google at channel events, but assigning a few people to manage the channel is a long way from actually having a channel.
There's an event coming up in one of those out of the way places not many people get to that just might be too good to miss.
On Oct. 16, the ASCII Group will host a TechBoot Camp in Foster City, Calif., which is just outside of San Francisco. What makes this particular event compelling is the fact that representatives of Google's channel team are expected to be in attendance.
The ASCII Group is an association of solution providers that service the small business community. The majority of the group's 1,400-plus members work for businesses with revenues under $5 million and pay a monthly fee to be part of the association.
In return, the group has allowed the members to pool their purchasing power to get lower prices on equipment from either distributors or vendors directly. In addition, the group provides its members with discounts on common services that help lower the cost of doing business for solution providers.
As part of that mission, the ASCII Group teamed up with Google to get advertising credits that members could use to advertise their products and services using Google keywords. More recently, Google is now working with ASCII to create a vertical search capability that will make it easier for customers to find potential providers of IT services.
What makes all this interesting is that little is actually known about Google's overall ambitions in the channel. It would like solution providers to resell its Google search appliance, but setting up and configuring a search appliance for a corporate customer requires a lot of technical skill that most solution providers don't have. And it's not like Google has set up a meaningful certification program to provide incentives to train people on how to sell the Google search appliance.
Longer term, Google would surely like to have a cadre of solution providers customizing Google applications such as GoogleDocs for various vertical markets. But given the fact that GoogleDocs is free to customers and the nominal amount of money that Google is offering solution providers to push GoogleDocs, creating a broad based Google channel is not likely to happen anytime soon.
That's unfortunate because, in the absence of a rich set of managed services powered by Google that includes applications and also a variety of system and network management services that can be resold at a profit by solution providers, the rank and file channel community is going to stay aligned with Microsoft.
In fact, while Microsoft hasn't fully described a working channel model in the context of a SAAS (software as a service) sales model, it's pretty clear that when it comes to the channel, Microsoft is light years ahead of where Google is today.
It's encouraging to see Google coming to channel events such as the ASCII TechBoot Camp, but the company needs to recognize that assigning a few people to try and manage the channel is a very long way from actually having a channel.
So if you want to help educate Google about the role of the channel in Google's future, maybe the best place to start will be at the ASCII Group event later this month. To sign up, go here.