Google vs. Microsoft in Channel Contest?

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Google Inc.’s launch of a reseller program for Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) is its most aggressive attack against software giant Microsoft Corp., analysts said.

The move is necessary for the search giant to get traction with its Office alternative software in the enterprise, and that means it’s going after the Microsoft channel — 640,000+ strong — to do it.

Google is not starting from scratch. It has partners from its acquisition of Postini and also those it recruited to sell its Google Search Appliance. But some partners are criticizing Google’s support for the channel — from processes to compensation — and questioning its ability to rival Microsoft in driving channel sales and loyalty.

Other partners are confident Google will overcome its early missteps, particularly since it’s open to partner feedback.

If it can do that, then it has a chance to take on Microsoft since its low-cost, turnkey offer is compelling for customers and resellers, especially in today’s difficult economic environment.

And analysts say the competition between Google and Microsoft can only intensify as Google is likely to rollout partner programs for its other products.

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