Cho: We're Committed to Growing with the ChannelBy Sharon Linsenbach | Print
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The search giant’s entry into the SaaS application channel could present Microsoft with one of the greatest challenges to its market dominance yet. But Google still must earn the channel’s trust and confidence.
Cho says services around cloud-based computing are key to solution providers looking to build a practice around Google’s solutions. No matter how large or small the customer, he says, partners can leverage the SaaS-based Apps suite to drive revenue and generate new business.
"We believe fundamentally in cloud computing, and that will continue to be our core focus," he says. Cho adds that even Google’s channel program is SaaS-based, with online tools, marketing materials and a partner forum/discussion board for partners to communicate with each other and with Google.
Another potential point of conflict is that the program lacks a deal registration component. This means there's always a chance partners could be undercut by other solution providers or even by Google itself.
But Cho says that won’t happen.
"Absolutely not. We give partners guidance about how to set up the program, but it’s fundamental that the billing and payment relationship remains between that customer and their reseller," he says.
Google addresses that concern on its FAQ page by stating: "We fully recognize and appreciate the complementary role you play as a solution provider in bringing these products to business customers … With this reseller program, you own the relationship with your customers. You create and sell a complete solution that includes Google Apps and your own services, you bill your customers for the solution you design, and we encourage you to provide front-line support as well. We're also working to improve the level of control that you have over the customer experience and delivery of Google Apps."
Despite these potential sticking points, Healey says he believes he'll be able to successfully juggle both Google Apps and Microsoft Office suite products in his line card. He says it is simply a matter of determining which solution is the best match for his customers' needs at the time.
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"It's true that Google Apps are broadline applications that are directly comparable to [Microsoft] Office and Mail. But we have always taken a vendor-agnostic approach, and we'll continue to do so," says Healey.
Healey says for most organizations there are areas where SaaS is a perfect fit for the business model, but it's a matter of considering each customer on a case-by-case basis. For example, for a customer whose work force is geographically spread out, a cloud-based solution like Google Apps might be more appropriate. But a more traditional, centralized organization where all employees are under one roof might be better suited by an on-premises solution such as Microsoft's current Office suite.
Regardless of any potential conflict, Healey says he's excited about the opportunities Google offers.
"There's a lot of built-in interest based on the Google name, the functionality and, of course, the price point," he says. "It's a great time for them to move forward with this program."
Google isn’t the first vendor to enter the channel with promises and optimism. Dell re-entered the channel after years of being a direct-only vendor. Despite a year’s work, Dell is still trying to build confidence in the channel community. It will take time for Dell, and Amazon’s Vanni says the same will hold true for Google.
"Depending on how grand [Google’s] marketshare aspirations are, this might take up to 5 years to fully mature," she says. "They’re still getting their arms around their own channel organization – and so they’re going to have to go through this maturity curve to get to the level of other, more established programs like Microsoft’s."