Unlike the hectic pace of political news and scandals this week - Aitken's little white lies and Paddy's departure - the channel has been bubbling away quietly. Not a bankruptcy or merger in sight.
That said, there are a few items on the channel agenda that deserve a mention, not least Cisco's plans to retrain its channel partners - the company wants its resellers to become less generalised.
It would be nice to think that the move heralds a change of tack by large vendors that now want to bring their channel buddies closer to their hearts and offer them more help than ever.
However, it's far more likely that Cisco is worried that its channel is not up to the job of selling ever more technical, and possibly expensive, networking kit. Cisco is the only one of the big three not to be snapped up by a giant telecoms player - 3Com went to Lucent and Bay to Nortel - and is clearly making sure all its routes to market are running like clockwork.
But the courses are not free - in fact, about #1,800 worth of not free.
The five target skills that Cisco wants to instil are network management, security, SNA/IP integration, Wans and voice access. In addition, companies must send four employees and the accreditation process takes about three months. So, if Cisco feels its channel partners need this much training, why the hell are they selling Cisco kit in the first place? No one is saying these resellers aren't up to the job, but it has to come as a bit of blow to them when their vendor introduces an expensive training course to improve their skills. Either Cisco is looking to clean out the dregs, or it wants to make its resellers the most super-qualified in the industry.
Since a recession is on its way - or so we are constantly reminded - the latter seems highly unlikely. Even so, more vendor investment into the skills of its channel partners would not go amiss.
If anything, it is probably long overdue, but it helps if a fee of #1,800 is not attached to the helping hand.
PC DEALER MEETS THE PLAYERS
Trends in the channel can be difficult to spot, as strategic decisions made in the boardroom often take a long time to filter down to the front line. Unless you've got a direct line to the managing director of your largest distributor, or regularly are invited to attend strategy sessions with your top-tier vendors, you probably won't be the first to know when a shift in emphasis or change in practice is planned.
With this in mind, PC Dealer is opening up its little black book and conducting a series of fortnightly interviews - Face to Face - with some of the biggest names in the channel - from vendors and distributors through to retailers and resellers - to give you the inside line on what's coming in 1999.
In the first of our exclusive interviews, Jan Lawford, commercial director of CHS Electronics, talks about the difficulties it has had to face integrating companies acquired in its 1998 buying blitz, as well as the company's position on channel assembly, software licensing, the euro and electronic trading.
See page 24.
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