Symantec has come under fire after research unearthed its policy of allowing end users to buy up to 1,000 licenses online.
Research house Canalys recently examined the number of licences available to buy online from each of the top anti-virus vendors in EMEA.
Symantec launched an online store in March that enables end users to purchase up to 1,000 licenses in one go, putting it way ahead of its major competitors McAfee (250 licences), Sophos (199 licences) and Kaspersky and Trend Micro (50 licences). The move applies to multiple Symantec anti-virus, backup and recovery, encryption and PC and server management products.
Canalys analyst Alex Smith argued that Symantec is playing a "pretty dangerous game" from a channel perspective.
"This is a relatively new initiative and it went under the radar as Symantec did not do a lot of push activity around it. I would think resellers would be pretty concerned by it and some of those who are aware of it have voiced concerns."
Symantec partners ChannelWeb contacted were generally unaware of the increase.
Martin Hellawell, managing director of Symantec partner Softcat, said he was "annoyed" by the strategy but was generally unfazed.
"The pricing on the web shop is all RRP so you would have to be mad to buy from it given you get zero discount.
"In the actions that matter, Symantec is very channel friendly," he added.
Smith echoed this: "Symantec is a bit of an enigma. We see it as one of the top anti-virus vendors from a channel engagement perspective and yet it is the one with the largest volume of licences that can be purchased from its web shop.
"Like in any industry, firms tend to flock together so the temptation for competitors is to look at this and say ‘if they're doing it, we should too'."
Ian Stinton, managing director of Cognitive Network Solutions, said: "It depends on the complexity of the products. If they are complex products, this makes no sense at all, but if they are products that do not require any configuration or installation services, I am not at all worried."
Grahame Smee, managing director of Cohort – which distributes Symantec's PGP encryption products – said: "I think Symantec is trying to make it easier for customers to add to their estates when they see fit. The products we are involved in are not commodity and typically people need some element of professional services to implement them, so this is not a concern for us."
Tony Larks, vice president of EMEA marketing at Trend Micro, said: "Every vendor struggles with the direct-versus-indirect approach and you will find that most vendors have extended their e-commerce structures beyond just consumer solutions. However, moving beyond SOHO/small business does not make a great deal of sense as this is where the channel adds value both to us and our customers."
Symantec confirmed in a statement that its EMEA stores launched with a 1,000-unit maximum nine months ago but said there had been no increase in its direct sales figures since then.
Glenn Woolaghan, vice president of small business, EMEA at Symantec, said: "Symantec is a partner-focused organisation and operates with a business model that supports that commitment. The company's first choice is for its customers to purchase Symantec technology through its channel partners and we are committed to providing our partners with programmes, incentives and training to help them deliver superior value to customers and to maximise their revenue with Symantec.
"Symantec's online store for business solutions in EMEA enables us to better serve those customers who only want to purchase online from Symantec. Our online store incorporates Symantec partners, as customers can fulfil their orders with their reseller of choice."
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