Web-only resellers are by no means a recent phenomenon, but they are suddenly beginning to pop up in numbers now. What's more, vendors are taking notice and looking at ways to bring them into the regular channel fold.
Steve Bennett, managing director of Software Warehouse, is set to unveil a web-only reseller called Jungle Online. In the US, Compaq is working on a recent VAR service authorisation, to capture what is fast becoming a channel within a channel. Obviously, this online trend is still more pronounced in the US, although it is now rearing its head in the UK too.
But Compaq isn't looking to become close with existing resellers on this scheme, as the mechanism is being set up to attract those resellers that do not actually sell the vendor's kit or services. It wants to target the service side of the IT equation by getting in with online resellers that deal in services which range from applications hosting, to web design and hosting. Compaq admits its authorisation levels means that it is not in contact with many potential online reseller partners. It is no doubt a good move for Compaq, and any scheme offered to online resellers will later be offered to existing partners.
Also, it is one of the few recent Compaq announcements that doesn't talk about cutting down on its channel partners. The online service providers will probably sell packaged Compaq service products such as web-hosted applications. They will also have access to PartnerSelect, the online database for resellers looking for other reseller partners. The online VARs might be happy with this channel dating service, but it remains to be seen if Compaq can introduce them without upsetting existing VARs.
There isn't much confidence in Compaq's channel plans - for good reason - so the vendor will have to tread carefully on the already bruised resellers that remain. Considering that Dell has knocked Compaq off the top spot in the UK PC charts for the first time ever, according to preliminary research by analyst IDC, the computer giant would do well not to rock the channel boat any more than is absolutely necessary.
That said, Dell should watch its own back since channel heavyweights IBM and Hewlett-Packard have already begun to stage a comeback and are showing much higher growth rates than the direct vendor.
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