Acer's win in the Victorian Department of Education (DOE) tender for 37,000 notebook computers sends another chilling message to the Australian channel. If the deal is big enough, and the customer wants it, the channel is left out in the cold.
Paul Doherty, general manager, information technology for DOE, said that although the department indicated a preference to deal directly with the manufacturer, it didn't mean the reseller channel couldn't be involved. According to Doherty, besides good product, price (including "relativity" over the period of the contract), economic value to Victoria and value added to education, key selection criteria included services such as delivery and training.
Presumably Acer elected to exclude its own channel from this deal, believing it could meet these criteria without its resellers and distributors. It has instead partnered with GSAT - Geelong Science and Technology Centre - to arrange delivery and training.
GSAT is described as a private not for profit company which was set up by the DOE itself. It recently handled the statewide rollout and training for CASES, the administrative software package for schools. GSAT manager Phil Emery confirmed that it was required to complete the delivery and training for the first 10,000 recipients by December 16.
"The rollout required some experience in dealing with schools," Emery said.
One Acer reseller who asked not to be named, told ARN that he would have loved to have been a party to the deal, but had been forewarned that the DOE wanted to deal direct. Another to have been advised in advance that it was not going to be included in the deal was Acer's biggest national reseller in the education market, Histar Invotech Group (HIG).
Sales director Gadi Bichler and marketing director Yaron Kozminski were both sceptical about the deal. According to Bichler: "Acer winning this tender raises the profile of its brand, but only time will tell if there are any flow-on benefits to its channel."
"Our experience with Acer is that it has been committed to the channel, but does this mean that if anyone comes along with a big enough deal, it will go direct?" Kozminski said.
One Acer distributor seemed resigned to the inevitability that the channel will sometimes be cut out. Q*Soft managing director Barry Amor said: "Some vendors just like to use the channel except when it suits them to go direct."
Meanwhile, Acer's marketing director, Charles Chung, claimed the deal will be good for its channel partners because of the rise in the brand profile and the potential for spin-off sales.