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Google’s launch of a formal reseller channel partner program for Google Apps Premier Edition could be considered a pre-emptive strike against Microsoft, as the Microsoft Office Web Applications aren’t scheduled for release until 2010. Still, a channel partner of both companies says Google’s new program stacks up with the best of them.

Google made its reseller news public Jan. 14 in its blog, saying the new program is specifically for resellers of Google Apps. Google has had the Google Enterprise partner program in place since 2006 for solution providers that resell Google enterprise search appliances, Google Apps and Google Maps to enterprise customers.

The new reseller program will focus solely on Google Apps Premier Edition, which includes e-mail and chat, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and security and compliance features. 


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The program will offer VARs a 20 percent discount and the ability to drive recurring services revenue on the Apps suite, which in the past has been sold directly to customers. Google partners will receive $10 per year on each $50 per-user, per-year subscription they sell, and Google states that partners can continue to manage the billing, service and support relationship with the customer.

While Microsoft currently offers e-mail and instant messaging via the Windows Live Essentials suite, the Microsoft’s browser-based versions of the Office Suite applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, aren’t expected to be released until 2010 with the next version of Office, sources say. That could be plenty of time for Google to strengthen its position in the productivity suite market.

Stephen Cho, director of Google Apps Channels, says the Apps Premier Reseller program launch is less about striking a blow at Microsoft and more about filling a need in the market.

“There was a clamoring from partners and customers — partners want to serve Apps to their customers, and customers want to be served by partners,” says Cho in an interview with Channel Insider.

The reseller program was the best way to satisfy pent-up demand from both partners and customers who may have already transitioned to the product and needed additional services or who were interested in making the transition to Apps for the first time.

Mike Healey, CTO of GreenPages Technology Solutions, which is both a Google reseller partner and a Microsoft Gold Partner, says the Google program easily holds its own when stacked up against Microsoft’s reseller program. According to Healey, Google has done a thorough and methodical job of planning and executing its channel program strategy.

"They have done a fantastic job of actively involving partners in their pilot program, soliciting feedback and really listening to what partners tell them," says Healey. He says Google has a solidly built channel team that should assuage solution provider concerns about signing up for a new, untested program. "In many ways, I feel they have the maturity of a long-standing program," Healey says.