IBM, Hewlett-Packard go to direct sales model

IBM, Hewlett-Packard go to direct sales model

Hewlett-Packard and IBM are stepping up their efforts in the race to provide their customers with a direct sales model.

Both companies claim the change is being made in response to North American IT buyers' complaints that the reseller channel offers less value and more headaches than the direct sales model.

As part of its "realignment " strategy, HP is expected to start selling its small and midsize business line of products directly on its Web site in June.

IBM's direct initiative, which has already seen the Big Blue worldwide ShopIBM site rolled out, will now be extended to include business PCs, notebooks and Intel-based server and workstation products.

IBM and HP officials in Australia last week dismissed the idea that the strategy was going to be applied locally.

"This announcement is part of IBM's small business focus in the US and will not be replicated in Australia," an IBM spokesperson said. "All our business sales go through IBM business partners and although we are working on some Web initiatives, our strategy is going to be very different to that of our parent company."

The statement echoes comments made last month by Philip Bullock, general manager of IBM PSG, Australia and New Zealand, who said that while IBM is "trying to localise the online purchasing" program, there will be "no hidden surprises for resellers" in any of IBM's local Web initiatives that are to be revealed in the next three weeks.

Chris Greig, Hewlett-Packards's Commercial Channels Organisation general manager, said his company has not changed its policy on online ordering either.

"HP Australia has no plans beyond the already announced establishment of an HP 'electronic channel'," Greig said.

"To get the most out of online ordering, you need a combination of a proper and professional front, which is developed by a manufacturer, and an efficient and value-added supply mechanism and you just cannot beat what the channel has today." Greig added that last year's enlargement of HP's direct sales force is not indicative of any possible abandonment of the hybrid sales model.

But even if it was, Ian Harding, managing director of HP reseller and Excellence Awards laureate CES Computers, believes corporate clients would still require services that only HP resellers would be able to provide.

"Vendors have always gone direct, but have not been successful without people on the ground and we will always be there to fulfil that need," he said.

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