Taking a mature approach to the channel

Taking a mature approach to the channel

Caroline Pan is Intel's director of local OEM market development within the chipmaker's Channel Platform Group (CPG). At the recent Intel Solutions Summit in Auckland, she spoke about her division's role in assisting local builders, the challenges presented by the mobile market and the future.

Can you briefly expand on what your group does within Intel?
My organisation spans worldwide and is the business go-to-market arm for CPG. We take a look through all the geographies and different regions. In some ways you can look at it as match-making and making sure the channel players, who already have good traction in the market, continue to grow. Because that has a spill over effect for the rest of the industry.

How do you help those businesses grow?
Local businesses have local touch and knowledge and come up with interesting business models which Intel can't take credit for. Where we do assist them is by providing new technologies and helping to articulate the benefits of those to customers.

This is largely through the provision of marketing support to help them establish their brand through advertising or other promotional activities. A lot of improvements have been made to the Intel Inside [marketing] program in recent times. Partners use the funds and reimbursements for activities such as road shows and seminars, sometimes alongside Intel, rather than for more typical advertising.

There's a perception that a lot of what you do is focused on emerging markets but Australia isn't an emerging market. How do you work with the Australian channel?
We're a global group and not just focused on emerging markets. We see a lot of opportunities in mature markets within specific verticals like SMB and education, when we look at markets in the US, Europe and Australia. We think this is where the channel and local OEMs have real strength.

There are a number of different initiatives in CPG and although emerging markets gets a lot of recognition, we also have desktop mobile and server groups. Mobile is particularly pertinent as well because penetration in the channel has been low, despite mobile as a category taking off like crazy.

Would you say mobile has been the channel's biggest problem?
I would say so. Desktop is a highly standardised market - and has been so for 10 or more years. The channel can deal with desktop and source the right ingredients and the prices are pretty stable, but notebooks have been customised for so long and dominated by the multinationals that it's really difficult for the channel to crack into the market.

That's why we have initiatives in CPG such as the Common Building Block (CBB) program, trying to standardise the notebook platform and make them more widely available with standards that local channel players can deal with.

A lot of markets are still heavily desktop focused, but mobile is becoming more and more relevant. There's still a lot of opportunities - even in mature markets - because there's instances of notebooks as a second PC in households or in replacing desktops altogether. I think the channel customers we've been working with are very eager. It's still very early in the game in the big scheme of things, but channel partners are starting to embrace the CBBs we've been working on and we really hope that continues.

What's your overall message to the Australian channel?
We had a lot of great visions for the channel in 2006 and we took great leaps in terms of accelerating mobile and working on emerging markets platforms, as well as other new initiatives. In doing so, I think we learnt a lot of what was possible and what the challenges are. We're a little more seasoned now and have learnt from the hurdles we had to face in 2006.

We are putting very specific actions in place to address the channel's concerns. We have heard their feedback and we're very eager to continue getting feedback but we're also very encouraged by the progress we've made.

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