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Google doesn’t get the channel.

Mind you, that is not a new revelation, but the vendor’s launch of a Google
Apps partner program once again demonstrated that while Google has done many
things right, it has little clue about how to work with solution providers.

What makes the vendor’s half-hearted approach to solution providers even
more grievous is the wasted opportunity. Google has a chance to grab mindshare
before Microsoft’s planned 2010 launch of its Web-based Office Web
Applications, but it won’t get too far without an honest-to-goodness commitment
to solution providers’ businesses.

Google’s new partner program covers Google Apps Premier Edition, which
includes e-mail and chat, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and
security and compliance features (read "Google: We’re Committed to Growing
with the Channel
"). The program consists of giving solution providers a 20
percent discount and the prospect of earning Apps-related recurring services
revenue. But the program bears a gaping hole that should make any potential
partner think twice, or thrice, before signing up with Google. 

There is no deal registration.

And you know what that means: Without deal registration, a solution provider
has no real way to protect its customer relationship. Another solution
provider, Google agent or Google itself could swoop in at some point and
persuade the customer to switch.

Now, you could argue that if you are doing right by your customer, you
shouldn’t have to fear losing the customer to the competition. And you would be

But that doesn’t remove Google’s responsibility to protect its channel
partners. Any vendor that expects revenue gains through partnerships has to
give something in return. The best channel vendors have successful partnerships
because they understand how important it is to protect their solution
providers. Some vendors even have regional restrictions to prevent
cannibalization of the business.

But Google need not go that far. Regional restrictions for partnerships
built on downloadable Web-based applications would make little sense, anyway, but
the vendor should have a database where solution providers would register
customer accounts to prevent poaching.

These concerns might be dismissed as alarmist, perhaps even unfair, if
Google didn’t already have a decidedly less than stellar track record with
solution providers.

After acquiring e-security compliance vendor Postini, Google chased a number
of Postini partners out the door. Solution providers complained of competition
from Google, poor communication and pricing strategies that made it next to
impossible to make money out of selling Postini licenses.

It should become evident in short order whether Google has learned anything
from its Postini fiasco.

For solution providers, having a name like Google backing up their business
should prove beneficial. Though customers tend to not really care what brand is
on the technology their solution providers sell them, brand recognition
nevertheless adds credibility. That’s why it pays to be a Microsoft partner.

If Google wants to ever reach the level of credibility Microsoft has with
solution providers, the search king will have to figure out how to support its
own channel community.

Solution providers aren’t likely to get rich off selling Google Apps, which
pays $10 per year for each $50 per-user, per-year subscription, but the
opportunity to generate services and integration revenue is real. The partner
model Google is using will become increasingly prevalent as cloud computing
expands, so the onus is on solution providers to add compelling value to their

But for solution providers to even get to the point of starting to add
value, they need to feel secure that the product to which they are adding value
comes from a vendor that cares about them. Whether Google understands this is
still questionable.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for Channel Insider.