When Will Google Be Channel-Ready?
To me "Google" still sounds like something you'd say when tickling a baby's chin, but the Internet search engine company's brand recognition is undeniable.
The company's stock appears certain to hit the $500-per-share mark soon while investors salivate over the prospect of a stock split, even though Google has given no indication it will do that.
Google executives have reasons to feel confident, especially since every strategic move the company makes is analyzed in the context of Google taking on Microsoft. There's no more effective way to make a splash than to set your crosshairs on the Redmond mammoth.
To take on Microsoft, Google wants to control the desktop front end. And that has led to speculation the vendor will use Google Pack to embed itself in the desktop as a way into the enterprise.
The pack aggregates third-party applications, such as virus and spyware filters, a browser and a media player, with Google's search capabilities to give users the ability to better organize their PCs.
While the strategy to populate the user interface with Google-related software makes sense, turning the company's technology into meaningful business solutions that effectively address corporate needs won't happen magically.
To stand a chance, Google will have to build a workable channel plan with a real value proposition for its partners.
It will require helping partners create services around the company's technology and establishing a solid support infrastructure so that partners can deliver those services effectively.
So far Google has given no indication of any plans for a grand channel plan.
Sure, the company in the fall launched the Google Enterprise Professional Program, which gives partners a chance to customize solutions around its Google Mini and Google Search Appliance products, but that falls way short of what the vendor will need to conquer the enterprise.
Besides, Google charges VARs, ISVs and integrators $10,000 yearly for the privilege of partnering with the company.
Not surprisingly, a lot of channel companies dismissed the company's thus-far-tepid channel approach.
The $10,000 price tag had some in stitches, while others suspected that Google's interest in the channel was simply a way to get at customers that it would later take direct.
The latter may be an unwarranted fear, but channel veterans have seen scores of vendors come and go with all manner of schemes. A healthy dose of skepticism, if not outright suspicion, is understandable.
Besides, some believe that taking on Microsoft on the front end is a long shot. For one thing, a lot of what Google Pack aggregates the users already have on their desktops, so unless users find a real advantage in how the pack is organized, they may ignore it altogether.
And if that happens, the company's strategy of using the desktop as a way into the enterprise may fall flat. Unless, of course, Google has some other tricks up its cyber-sleeve.
But one thing is certain: The current hype will get the company only so far. Google will have to work hard and strategize wisely if it wants to remain an active verb.
Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he's back. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.