Googles Distribution Play: Thats It!?
When I lived in Plymouth, Mass., I used to react with perverse amusement when I saw tourists with license plates from as far as Montana and Florida visit the famed Plymouth Rock.
A first-time visitors reaction inevitably went something like this: "Thats it!? Thats Plymouth Rock!? We drove all the way from [insert faraway locale] for this!?"
Plymouth Rock, in case you dont know, is little more than a boulder that would likely fit in the back of a large SUV. Folks expecting some awe-inspiring, majestic rock couldnt help the deflating sense of letdown.
That type of reaction came to mind when folks across the channel started responding to last weeks announcement that Google has entered a distribution agreement with Ingram Micro.
It is Googles first foray into distribution, and the vendor with one of the most recognizable brands in the industry picked none other than the worlds largest IT distributor for its grand entrance.
But if you thought the two companies would mark the occasion with fireworks to rival Manhattans massive July 4 display, all you got was a lone candle in the window.
It didnt look like Google made much of an effort beyond simply signing on the dotted line with Ingram Micro. No major marketing blitzes are planned, and it appears technical support will fall entirely on the distributor. Ingram Micro is more than capable of handling support for Google, but often vendors back up distributors staffs so that all bases are covered to meet demand.
Of course, that happens when vendors actually expect to increase their sales as a result of selling through distribution.
So you have to wonder if Google even expects this Ingram Micro deal to boost its sales by muchunless the vendor is so confident that solution providers will beat down the doors at Ingram Micro to get their hands on the Google search appliances that the distributor has agreed to carry.
Ingram Micro is treating the Google partnership as just another product launch for the distributor, according to Keith Bradley, the distributors North America president.
Naturally, the distributor, as happy as it is to carry the Google brand, also has little incentive to promote the fact too heavily because the distributor makes far more money off Googles competitors than it probably ever will off Google.
For its part, Google seems to have no real concept of what it takes to have a channel program. Google has worked with channel partners for more than a year, but it really hasnt established the kind of channel presence one might expect.
That may have something to do with fees: It costs $10,000 a year to be a Google search partner and $5,000 to be an application partner.
While the brunt of vendors doing business with the channel is looking at ways to invest in partners with an eye to achieving mutual success, Google wants partners to pay for the benefit of associating their names to the brand.
Perhaps working with Ingram Micro will give the vendor a clue or two as to what it actually takes to have a successful partner network. That is, if thats what Google wants, which still remains questionable.
Until then, regarding Googles relationship with Ingram Micro and the channel in general, I would have to say: "Thats it!? Thats Googles channel program!?"
Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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