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Google’s Channel Scheme Irks VARs
By Elliot Markowitz

Sometimes even editors need confirmation. Every once in a while I have an initial harsh opinion, or a positive one, on a vendor’s channel strategy and I always try to run my thoughts by a handful of trusted VARs to keep myself in check.

Such was the case when I first heard about Google’s grand channel plan. My first reaction was a bit of confusion and then when I started thinking it through, it didn’t make much sense for most of the VARs that I know. I spoke with some of them about this and I was convinced my first gut feeling was on the money. But how much on the money I didn’t know until my e-mail box got flooded with messages from the channel community.


PointerClick here to read Elliot Markowitz’ Sept. 29 commentary on Google’s channel intentions.

Now, my experience has always been that if someone disagrees with you, they get angry and write a letter about it. That is the publishing business. Nine out of 10 letters on any given op-ed page on any given day will be someone disagreeing with something. For someone to write a supportive letter takes a bit more assertiveness. That has been my experience. That is why I was a bit taken aback by the amount of e-mail I got relating to my Google channel column, all in agreement with my assessment, with the exception of one misguided soul. Below I’ve chronicled what some in the channel are saying about Google’s program, including the one that disagreed with my thoughts.

Said one New York VAR: “You are not a lone voice and you wrote a great article. Google is growing very rapidly. They don’t want to miss any opportunities but they did not think this one out very well or they think VARs can’t see what is really on their one-sided agenda. With a $10,000 price tag, based on their initial offering, I don’t think they will have many takers.”

Here is one from another solution provider. “I just read your column on Google. My emphatic head nodding and gesticulating began at about the fifth paragraph, and continued to the end. I [originally] saw Google as an ideal partner. The creation of a channel network riding the Google wave seemed the perfect match of market forces to kick off another growth phase. There was a severe jolt when that $10,000 program fee jumped off the page at me! Like you, my experience tells me this is a sucker play for people to pay to have Google siphon off their client base to a direct model. I believe I will decline this invitation! Thanks for standing against the tide, and raising the questions here.”

And here is one from the standpoint of a customer with first-hand experience on how Google hung out to dry one of its VAR partners: “I can’t say that I disagree with your assessment at all; in fact, I think you’re spot on. I’m part of that so-called ‘targeted’ corporate world, and I also happen to be a customer. We purchased our Google Search Appliance through an existing vendor who was to assist in integrating it with their application. They became a VAR because of this project and because they thought they would be able to market it and sell it.

“Now, a lot of this has to do with the high cost of implementing the Google solution, but based on how our integration project went, the VAR decided to start working with another appliance vendor and rarely markets Google anymore. I sit here and I still don’t have a stable production appliance. This of course is off topic from the article you wrote; however, it does speak to how Google treats their customers and their VARs. I can’t begin to tell you how many people at Google we’ve spoken to about the numerous issues and bugs. I’ve talked to PMs and GMs at Google, and I truly believe that their only top concern right now is market share. They are completely hanging their current customers and VARs out to dry.”

PointerClick here to read more about Google’s channel plans.

There were many, many more, but I think you get the picture. To be fair, however, I did want to leave you with the one opposing view:

“I don’t plan to change your mind. It is clear that you are a monotheistic ideologue on the subject. I do not understand why, unless your prejudice is based on a hate of large corporations in general. I saw no reason in your diatribe to either trust or distrust Google. Broad generalizations are poor argument. Specifics, examples, and history are required to make a reasoned argument. If you seriously feel this way, than make a logical argument, or at least identify your source of bias—specifics, not a 10 cent analogy. Obviously there are companies that make a good use of partnerships, which benefit all involved. This problem of poor performance of partnerships seems to be an idea fix with you. I suggest you reevaluate you criterion, and if you still feel the same way, go with it.”

Well, based on the “history” and “examples” above, I am sticking to my guns on this one. And with that, folks, make your own decision.

Elliot Markowitz is editor-at-large of the Channel Insider. He is also editorial director of Ziff Davis Internet’s eSeminars. He can be reached at [email protected]



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