In gearing up to sell PCs via the Web this year, IBM is currently in the process of sweeping away the final vestiges of its reseller channel's former bread and butter: hardware sales.
Though Big Blue is careful to include business partners in its move to Web sales -- which IBM officials timed only as "very soon" -- this move portends the reseller landscape of the future that will focus heavily on services.
"Clearly the trend is that traditional resellers are trying to migrate rapidly to a more services-based model," said Charles Smulders, a Dataquest analyst. "That is a tricky skill to acquire, due to a lack of skilled workers."
A pilot program is already in place at IBM in the US but the question of how to be fair to all of its resellers remains an issue for the company.
Although IBM is confident it has a solution that will not alienate its business partners or cripple its offerings in the channel, analysts warn of a delicate situation.
"The challenge goes beyond fairness. For instance, how do you set one price on the Web site with several resellers fulfilling the order?" Smulders asked. "This can lead to confusion in the market. And it is very hard to manage the emotional aspect of the channel. Even innocent companies can run into trouble."
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