Dell’s decision to sell its wares from a new multimedia kiosk in a northern Sydney shopping centre will undoubtedly have many of you sharpening your battle axes for impending war, but it is not a move that should fill the channel with dread – at least not yet. While its arrival in Chatswood is certainly an interesting development, the announcement put out last week suggested the move was an attempt to patch a hole in its current business model, which has seen it struggle to appeal to first-time PC buyers through the ever-so convenient but impersonal Worldwide Web.
Admittedly, the new store does give potential customers the opportunity to get their hands on Dell’s products before deciding whether or not to buy, but its staff will still lack one very important weapon that the channel has in its armoury – the vendor independence that first-time buyers receive when they walk through the door of a local reseller or mass merchant store. This trusted advisor role is a big factor in that market and will remain a key differentiator for the city centre resellers that go head-to-head with Dell’s kiosks.
And to keep things in context, Dell has opened 70 of these multimedia kiosks in the US since launching the idea about two years ago. In fact, the concept first became a reality in Japan four years ago and there are still only about 20 in the whole Asia-Pacific region. A similar strategy in Australia, based on population numbers, would mean it is unlikely there will be more than a handful opened during the same timeframe. Having said all that, there can be little doubt that resellers, distributors and other vendors across the country will be monitoring the situation very carefully.
If Dell’s kiosk was the biggest arrival of the week, the most noticeable departure must surely have been Lan Systems’ managing director, Nick Verykios. Having successfully guided the networking distributor through the treacherous waters of a much publicised Cisco distributor cull at the end of last year, his departure must surely have raised a few eyebrows among Lan Systems’ partners, customers and competitors.
It is always frustrating as a news publication to be told that a highflying company executive has chosen to leave because “it’s time for something new”. The fact that chief financial officer, Andrew Blunden, left at the same time made the announcement even more intriguing. But the Westcon Group’s initial public offering, and the nature of contractual arrangements these days where severance payments are tied very tightly to towing the company line, mean that is all we are going to be told and the dual departure must be put down to coincidence.
In another coincidence, it was interesting to hear that Fujitsu Australia is parting ways with third-party warranty administration partner, CSSI. Some local resellers have been very vocal in their criticism of how claims were handled but Fujitsu has insisted the decision to terminate its relationship with CSSI locally was made several months ago and reflected a large drop in failure rates. Whether or not complaints were a factor in that decision, Fujitsu resellers are likely to welcome the vendor’s decision to bring warranty claims back in-house and extend terms.
What do you think?