Updated January 14, 6:08 a.m. PST, to reflect Google's official announcement.
Google on Wednesday launched a new authorized reseller program for Google Apps. It will let partnered businesses wrap up Google Apps with their own services in special bundles that can be resold. This includes things like localized customer service, hardware installation, file migration, and special hosting for things that fall outside of Google's built-in Sites service.
Google has been pilot-testing the reseller program with 50 companies since last summer. Now it's open to anyone, and will be available everywhere in the world. As a bonus, resellers in the U.S. get a 20 percent discount on the $50 per user, per year price tag.
As part of the deal, resellers get full control over things like customer billing and account management. Google is expecting this to be a big help in moving medium- to large-size companies over to Google Apps platform. Rishi Chandra, senior product manager for Google Apps, told CNET News that "there's great opportunity to take something like (Google Apps) and roll it out with support. We're never going to roll out a big services group." With the reseller program, Google expects partners to deliver that while being able to customize the platform for each customer's needs.
Paul Slakey, Google's director of enterprise channels, hopes the new program will widen the reach of Google Apps. "It's a good fit with service providers. For Web-hosting presence it's a natural extension. For things like business productivity software, dial tone or broadband access, it's going to be a managed service to provide to their customers."
A small and unfortunate side effect of this new program is that Google will be placing a cap on the maximum users one can have in the Standard edition of Google apps. That means new users will be capped at 50 sub-user accounts and will have to pay to step up to the Premiere level of service if they want to go over that. Existing users of the Standard edition will simply be "grandfathered" past this restriction, similar to what happened to existing users when the company launched the paid Premiere service back in early 2007.