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Although Google has led the way in pushing productivity applications in the cloud, Microsoft—with help from its channel partners—is beginning to eclipse Google, thanks to the fairly broad adoption of Microsoft Office 365. Now Google want to fight back by relying more on the channel.

Google and AppDirect announced that AppDirect is adding Google Apps for Work to its online marketplace.

The deal represents the maturation of Google in the channel, said Daniel Saks, president and co-CEO of AppDirect. He credits the appointment of former VMware CEO Diane Greene as head of the Google cloud business unit for helping Google better understand the value proposition of the channel. Google has previously offered Google Apps for Work via the channel with limited success.

“Google is now all-in with the channel,” said Saks.

One of the first solution providers to agree to license Google Apps for Work via the AppDirect marketplace is Agosto, a longtime Google applications partner. Agosto President Aric Bandy said the decision to go with AppDirect is driven by a desire to reduce friction in the acquiring and provisioning of cloud services.

“This approach reduces our costs of administration,” Bandy said. “It also provides a better experience for the customer.”

Bandy also credits AppDirect with providing additional relevant tools and services along with having a culture that better aligns with a born-in-the-cloud solution provider.

While many providers of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications initially sold their offerings primarily direct, many of them have now come to appreciate the value of the channel in terms of increasing activations and improving the rate of renewals for subscriptions.

In addition, much of the cost of labor associated with those activities moves off the books for the SaaS application provider and on to the channel partner. Given that most SaaS application providers are struggling to turn a profit, the value of having a separate entity bear those costs is not insubstantial.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.