IBM has finally come clean and admitted it will start selling PCs over the internet to SMEs within 120 days.
In a further blow, the vendor is also likely to authorise several Web resellers to move its products, according to David Boucher, general manager, AFI strategy and channel management for the personal systems group (PSG) at IBM.
At last week's Business Partner Executive Conference, IBM said it intended to increase overall Web-based sales to $12 billion from $82 million. The move follows the lead of Web sales pioneer Dell and Compaq, which set out its direct internet stall a fortnight ago (PC Dealer, 24 February).
An IBM representative claimed fulfilment and configuration services for PCs ordered over the Web would still be the domain of channel partners.
But Boucher admitted: 'By mid-1999, we will sell to all customer segments direct.'
IBM expects Vars to increase sales of its products by at least 25 per cent in the first quarter of this year. It also emerged that PSG Vars will be expected to sell at least $50,000 of products each year.
Previously, there had been no minimum sales requirement for IBM-authorised Vars.
According to Ross Venuti, programme director of channel sales strategy for PSG North America at IBM, existing resellers will be given a year to adapt to this threshold, adding that the scheme was part of IBM's strategy to deal with fewer, more dedicated channel partners.
But UK executives were unaware of the introduction of such limitations on local Vars. They claimed local reseller contracts - which took effect on 1 March - contained no minimum requirements for indirect Vars.
IBM UK conceded that the vendor was streamlining its channel but promised to deliver more financial and logistical support to partners who fulfiled the criteria.
IBM also announced plans to raise its reseller margins and provide incentives on low-end RS/6000 servers and workstations within a month.
A two per cent incentive will be allocated to distributors for supporting tier-two resellers.
See BPEC roundup, page 16.
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