The global trend of IT vendors going direct to customers was given even more currency last week. The revelation in the US that both IBM and Compaq are promoting direct relationships with selected end users provides further evidence of this threat to the channel.
IBM's Netfinity Direct program gives corporate accounts the option of buying and receiving delivery of its Netfinity line of servers direct from the company, instead of through its network of value-added resellers. Users still have the option of receiving delivery and support from their existing resellers, company officials said.
An IBM Australian spokesperson told ARN the announcement only relates to the US.
Santo Pappalardo, managing director of IBM business partner IT Wholesale, said the existing strategy of using resellers and distributors has been refined over the last couple of years and seems to be working well. "There are two types of markets - direct and the normal channel. IBM can't have its cake and eat it too," he said.
As for Compaq, it is reported to be moving in for the kill against its direct competitors by specifically targeting major Dell accounts in the US and offering a more direct relationship to those customers.
Still wary of calling the approach "direct", Compaq will be pursuing approximately 300 major accounts, most of which are largely owned by Dell, and giving those customers a choice of relationship, according to sources.
With Compaq's acquisition of Digital and its expansive services and support business expected to become official on Thursday, the channel's dwindling role in the business of Compaq is becoming apparent. "Compaq has to make a move," said Tony Amico, channel analyst at International Data Corp in the US. "The direct players are capturing more of the market. This happens to be the next evolution in the model. If you don't sell your product in a way so that people want to buy it, then you are not going to sell your product."
Fiona Dicker, general manager of Compaq distributor Dicker Data, said it is a completely different situation in Australia and Compaq is certainly not doing it here. "Compaq has focused its attention on the SME market which it believes it can access best through the channel. We have dealers who gain business Compaq couldn't reach in the sort of program described in this report," she told ARN.