After a test run with 50 companies worldwide, Google officially launched a reseller program today for its Google Apps Premier suite of programs.
Under the new program, authorized resellers will be able to sell, customize and support Google Apps Premier themselves. Previously, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) offered the suite directly via its Web site and through a select partners.
Resellers will be able to bill customers directly and will maintain the marketing relationship. Customization could include things like installation and support services. Google will offer a portal and training tools geared to resellers.
“We see the business poised for serious acceleration and expect additional millions of businesses to adopt Google Apps,” Stephen Cho, director of Google Apps channels, told InternetNews.com. “To service that and the need for local service and support this new program is essential.”
Google has been steadily building out the features of its SaaS (DEFINE:SaaS) suite, adding video and Web site creation among other new capabilities to complement staples like e-mail, spreadsheets and word processing. Google Apps already has over 10 million active users, but analysts say the channel strategy has the potential to greatly expand its reach over time.
“At the outset, I don’t see this as a highly ambitious program starting with 50 resellers. Google’s putting its toe in the water,” AMR Research analyst Jim Murphy told InternetNews.com. “But we do talk to companies that are considering Google Apps as a complement to Microsoft or IBM. They’re testing these cloud-based services and now Google is supporting the IT ecosystem with a reseller network. Over the next five years there’s serious growth potential.”
Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemanns said the right mix of channel partners will help Google Apps gain respect in the enterprise as a valid alternative. “It’s an important step which is why you see companies like Salesforce with a channel strategy because it’s a way to reach more customers,” she said.
The market for cloud computing applications is still very new, said Rishi Chandra, senior product manager for Google Apps. “We’re very excited about this expansion and I think we’ll learn a lot more about different use cases and monetization strategies.”
Tony Safoian, president of IT firm SADA Systems, was one of the pilot resellers for Google Apps. “We believe strongly that all companies will adopt SaaS to one degree or another, and Google’s reseller program empowers us to be experts in the cloud,” Safoian said in a statement.
Google’s Cho said resellers of any size that want to be considered for the program can find more details at this Web site.