Google: Telco partnerships bearing fruit

Internet giant looking to sign on more allies in telecommunications space to broaden market reach, says APAC exec, following recent deal with first telco channel partner Singapore Telecommunications to resell Google Apps.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Google is looking to expand its footprint in the enterprise space by partnering telcos that will take on a reseller role for the Internet giant's Google Apps productivity suite, similar to its alliance with Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel)--the first telco to ink a deal with the company.

Doug Farber, Singapore-based managing director for Google's Asia-Pacific enterprise division, said SingTel partnered Google in April this year to offer the latter's e-mail, Web site creation and management and calendar tools through the Singapore carrier's OneOffice bundled package of managed services.

Speaking at a media briefing here Tuesday, Farber declined to reveal the number of customers won through the SingTel partnership but revealed that Singapore Logistics Association, Rainforest Education Center and Singapore National Cooperative Federation have since signed up for Google Apps through SingTel's OneOffice platform.

Buoyed by its SingTel partnership, he said Google has been exploring similar deals and pointed to SK Telecom in South Korea and Tata Communications in India as two telcos that have followed the Singapore telco's footsteps and partnered Google to offer its productivity suite.

For instance, through the collaboration with Tata--announced Jul. 15 this year--Indian business users can sign up for Google's enterprise offerings such as e-mail, instant messaging, calendar, video and office presentation tools through the Indian telco, according to Tata's press release.

In South Korea, SK Telecom is offering features such as e-mail, instant messaging, calendar, contacts, to-do list, Web page management, e-report and e-documentation via SK Telecom's T bizpoint - Officepack bundle. T bizpoint is the telco's mobile and fixed one-stop business support platform for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), and subscribers can install Google Apps through the platform's Web portal, the company's press release stated.

Besides telcos, other channel partners include systems integrator NCS, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SingTel, and Singapore-based software consulting company, Pointstar, Farber said.

"Partnering with our channel partners to sell our Google Apps suite of services is more suited for [Asia-Pacific] due to the fragmented nature of the region's markets," he noted.

Google outpacing competition
Currently, Google Apps have been deployed to 3 million business users and over 30 million end-users, Farber said.

Based on these numbers, he is bullish about the product's outcome amid competition from other productivity suites, particularly Microsoft's Office and Exchange software and IBM's Lotus Notes. "We'd like to think that our traction is a little better and faster than our competitors. We have a compelling product...and we're winning very often," he said.

That said, Google's healthy adoption rate is not exceptional, according to Michael Osterman of Osterman Research. He said in tech site Network World that while Google is "gaining ground with Apps", Microsoft is also "doing quite well" with its BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard Suite).

Osterman said: "Clearly, [Microsoft] has gained some impressive customer wins and seems to be building momentum in both the business, including government sector, and educational markets." The analyst added that IBM's Lotus Live is "doing well", too, and Cisco Systems can also expect its WebEx Mail to "do quite well when it becomes available".

Farber acknowledged that while Microsoft Office contains many features, it has a refresh rate of two to three years which pales in comparison to Google's two to three weeks average of tweaking its Apps product. Furthermore, he added that users pay about US$50 per seat per year for Google Apps, compared to a pricier monthly licensing fee for products from its competitors.

Quizzed on the company's plans to integrate more social elements to enhance collaboration on its Google Apps platform, Farber said there are already chat and video features in the default Apps package. Network administrators can decide if they want to turn these features on for every employee, he said. Google Docs also allows users to edit, comment chat and push updates if there are changes made to a word document, spreadsheet or presentation, he added.

Furthermore, he said e-mail continues to be a good platform to integrate other features that will foster company-wide collaboration, adding that users will not be "moving out of e-mail anytime soon" and it is a good access point for employees to interact on.

Farber's comments come after Salesforce.com Asia-Pacific's regional vice president for marketing, Jeremy Cooper, said e-mail-based collaboration tools are outdated, adding that companies today are struggling with uncoordinated inboxes and trying to constantly connect the dots with the many e-mail messages that flow in daily.

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