In the hot seat: Back in business again

In the hot seat: Back in business again

After seven years in retirement, Geoff Anson decided to return to the IT industry as Palm's A/NZ sales director. In the past 12 months, he has re-shaped the vendor's distributor line-up by signing exclusively with Ingram Micro. His mission now is to develop Palm's partner relationships.

What is your background?

I came out of retirement to start with Palm, where I've been for the past 12 months. I came on board because I thought it was an exciting role with a company that looked like it was going to its next level of success. I have spent a long time in the IT industry, starting with Compaq in 1988. The most exciting point was when I researched and launched Compaq's move into consumer PCs. Over the course of the 10 years I was there I was very involved in setting up the channels in distribution and understanding what their needs were.

What did you do during those retirement years?

During those seven years off, I ran a charter boat in Sydney harbour. I also did some executive coaching and got involved in starting up a small real estate investment education company in Australia. I did a variety of other different things as well, but I always had a yearning to get into technology.

What is your role now?

I run the Australian and New Zealand regions. With a new product range coming along, Palm really needed to set up some new channels for distribution, engage with more partners and look into enterprise opportunities. I built a team of people with expertise in dealing with a number of those different areas, including enterprise and carrier sales.

Was an existing distribution tier in place before your appointment?

We previously had three distributors in Australia and one in New Zealand. One of these was Brightpoint, but we had stopped doing business with them before I got on board. It was important for us to rationalise our distribution and make it a lot simpler. We now have one distributor in each country. In Australia that's Ingram Micro.

Aren't there disadvantages with one supplier?

I don't believe there are. Any concerns like that are outweighed by the fact that you can get a much greater focus with one partner than through numerous partners. When you have a relationship that is as important as Ingram Micro, you don't want to lose that focus.

Have you taken on more resellers?

We haven't taken any new partners on board, but we have established relationships with some of our bigger integrators for the first time. We didn't have the resources to do this before. With Volante and BCA IT, we have started joint marketing programs on wireless mobility to their large install bases. The Treo 650 for example, comes pre-installed with Microsoft Exchange accessing, so we have been able to go to Volante's large base of Microsoft 2003 Exchange customers.

Does Palm have a formal partner program?

We have a number of marketing support programs in place. We co-market our products to get a joint successful end result with our partners. We also bring in other external partners. For example, in the recent program we did with Volante, we co-funded it with Microsoft. We also get a lot of co-funding support from Intel. And we have partnerships with all the major carriers including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

What products will fuel your enterprise push?

Our product range is broken up into three categories: handhelds, mobile managers and smart phones. The handheld TX and mobile managers can cross over from consumer to business because of its capabilities and storage capacity. The Treo is an email-centric SMB tool with an all-in-one communications device.

Our new Microsoft relationship [announced in October] will see us bring a Windows-based Treo smart phone to the Australian market place in the second half of next year. It adds a substantial opportunity for us because there are so many Microsoft customers that want to maintain the same platform across all product types.

When looking at the high mobile phone adoption rate, do you think people are less likely to re-invest in a Palm product?

Yes and no. We certainly have a high level of penetration from a mobile phone perspective. The churn rate of mobile phones is pretty high, but it is even higher in some Asian regions. Consumers are upgrading from simple mobile phones to feature phones to much more rich PDA combination phones. Businesses are also looking at the advantages of wireless mobility, so the uptake of this technology is going to be very rapid.

Do you enjoy training and helping growth?

My passion in business developed over a number of years and I love gadgets. If I can fuel my passion for gadgets and have the opportunity to grow a new business from small to large, that's just paradise for me. Palm has done well in the past few months and our major objective over the next few years will be all about growth. Within the last 12 months it's been about engaging and getting our partnerships and distribution channels in shape so when the cavalry arrives in terms of the right products to solve our customers' needs, we've got our go-to-market strategy in place.

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