The Partner Choice scheme is aimed at resellers that supply firms with fewer than 100 desktops. It will give ‘second-tier partners’ the chance to buy all IBM PC-only products direct, explained Ken Batty, marketing manager for IBM UK Personal Systems Group.
‘IBM has been talking about launching this model for some time,’ he said, claiming it was the next logical step after the company announced its direct-to-end-user sales strategy in December 1999.
The move will not damage the company’s relationship with its existing distributors, said Batty, adding that distribution partners were as ‘important as ever to IBM and had been kept fully informed’.
Under the new scheme, IBM has bundled together a new product set called Topseller, consisting of a range of PC equipment aimed specifically at small businesses.
‘Although the products will be primarily IBM and purely PC products, we will not rule out third-party bits and pieces if the demand is there,’ Batty said.
However, he added that the company was not going into direct competition with distributors.
‘Marketing has been targeted directly at small resellers and credit will be available through IBM Global Finance,’ explained Batty. But he claimed that the new distribution arm could ‘increase business for larger resellers as well’.
He acknowledged some distributors had expressed nervousness at the proposition, but claimed they would not suffer a ‘downturn in business’.
‘We felt there was a gap in the ‘less than 100′ market, and decided to fill it,’ Batty said.
One distributor, which asked to remain anonymous, admitted the announcement had come as no surprise. ‘IBM, like most PC vendors, is struggling to gain market share, and this initiative will give it a boost in the SME sector.’
‘Obviously when anyone mentions the word ‘direct’ it is bound to send a shiver through distribution and send some people into a panic. But quite frankly we have not been told enough about the scheme to see it as a threat,’ he added.
Several other IBM distributors declined to comment.
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