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Google Apps Gaining Traction in Channel

Microsoft Office is still the champ, but now there's a real challenger. Google Apps is making inroads into the one group that has long been Microsoft's greatest asset: the channel.

Granted, Google can't hold a candle to Microsoft's 600,000-strong partner base, but the Web empire says that it has recruited nearly 1,000 resellers for its Google Apps productivity suite. How does that compare to the number of partners actually working with Microsoft's online productivity offering?

Well, the RCPmag.com story linked in the last paragraph says that Microsoft has more than 5,000 partners selling its most direct competitor to Google Apps, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) of Software as a Service applications. So while Microsoft's channel numbers still dwarf Google's in the online suite game, the Microsoft-Google partner ratio in that market is closer to 5-1 than it is 60,000-1.

While Redmond claims to have more than 1 million seats running BPOS, Google and its partners have nickel-and-dimed Microsoft Office and BPOS out of accounts, whittling away a few thousand seats (and sometimes more) here and there. On the partner side, Google Apps is attracting managed service providers (MSPs), and active ones at that. Check out these numbers from Jeff Schwartz's RCPmag.com story, linked above:

The MSPmentor 100 report for 2010 found that while 68 percent of MSPs now try to sell hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings to enterprise customers, 22 percent promote Google Apps as an option.

That 22 percent number is fairly impressive given that Google's channel program is only a year old. We should pause here to note, though, that we at RCPU don't see Google Apps overwhelming the Office franchise any time soon, if ever. Office is the de facto standard for word processing, presentations and spreadsheets and is still massively popular for e-mail, as well. It has swept away competition from Novell, Corel, Lotus, Sun and Oracle. Familiarity has not bred contempt in the case of Office; if anything, it has kept the product on top of its market.

But Office -- hosted or on the desktop -- isn't the only serious game in town anymore. Google Apps really does offer something unique: a hosted model with simple, easy-to-navigate interfaces and a pleasant lack of complication. Its dearth of bells and whistles is likely a strong point for many of its users, not a disadvantage. Plus, now that Google Apps can upload and store any kind of document, it's a much more flexible system than it was just a few months ago.

The real dilemma for Microsoft partners is whether it's worth trying to walk the tightrope between Microsoft and Google and sell both suites. Redmond isn't always too fond of partners that don't show loyalty in situations like this, but clearly there's some opportunity in working with Google on Apps. We figure that most Microsoft partners will stick with Microsoft, and maybe wisely so. But Google Apps looks as though it'll be a thorn in the Office juggernaut's side for some time to come, and it's building a partner base to do its bidding.

Do you work with Google Apps? Would you? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 02/25/2010 at 1:22 PM


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