SAN FRANCISCO: Google on Wednesday began recruiting a sales force to offer the Internet firm's software to business customers worldwide who
traditionally use Microsoft programs.
Google will train people to pitch its Google Apps Premier Edition, an array of business software hosted online in what is referred to as "cloud services."
Cloud services such as spread sheets, word processing
, and calendars are maintained and supported on Google computers and users access them when they wish by using the Internet.
Cloud services eliminate the need for packaged software to be installed and maintained on computers in homes or offices.
Google has been steadily increasing its host of cloud services, with a basic array offered for free and a Premier Edition available at a cost of 50 dollars annually.
"Google Apps has reached a level of maturity where it is useful and valuable for almost any business" said Google president of enterprise Dave Girouard.
"This program gives IT solution providers an easy way to introduce cloud computing to their service offerings, while helping more businesses make the transition to this new era of technology."
Google said it will teach "resellers" how to integrate Apps into customers' business operations and give them a 20 percent break on the price that they can pass on to customers if they chose to do so.
The program has been tested with more than 50 pilot partners.
"We believe strongly that all companies will adopt SaaS (Software as a Service) to one degree or another, and Google's reseller program empowers us to be experts in the cloud," said Tony Safoian, president of SADA Systems, an IT consulting firm.
"Reselling Google Apps opens up new opportunities via new conversations we could not have had with prospective clients as little as two years ago."
Safoian said Google Apps can be an easy sell, given that letting the California technology firm handle software updates, maintenance and disaster recovery can cost businesses 75 per cent less than doing it themselves.
Google Apps is seen as a direct challenge to a Microsoft empire founded on selling packaged software for installation on people's machines.
Until now, Google had relied on its own team to sell businesses subscriptions to its cloud services. Schools and charity groups are able to use the software services free.
Microsoft has responded with its own move "into the cloud" and says that the Windows 7 operating system it is preparing for release has been crafted with that in mind