I couldn't help but reserve a little chuckle at the comments made on behalf of IBM's personal systems boss, Phil Bullock, in light of that vendor's recent announcement that it would soon sell PCs over the Internet.
To put it bluntly - the writing's on the wall for a direct relationship.
Bullock's spiel flowed along the same lines of many Australian vendors' responses to the threat of emulating the direct-selling sorties of their revenue-hungry US parents.
It mused that direct IBM PC sales over the Net would never eventuate in Australia because IBM is committed to its channel and, besides, the Australian and US markets are as different as chalk and cheese.
Yeah sure, Australian IT revenues represent a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to the gargantuan US market. And there's no doubting the fact that US direct models, by and large, have a higher success rate than those proposed by local vendors because the US channel isn't as critical to the survival of the vendor market as it is in Australia.
But enough of this vendor justification suck.
The chances of Australian vendors going direct via online selling are about as certain as Greg Norman never winning the US Masters. (It pains me to dredge up the mandatory Greg Norman sob story. Go you good Sharkie!!)You also have to consider how Compaq, and later Hewlett-Packard, suddenly warmed to the online sales temptation after spending months vehemently denying such a treacherous venture would ever see the light of day in this country.
Sure, both these vendors, and no doubt IBM, when the online sales cherry proves irresistible, have espoused the view that resellers and integrators will directly (there's that word again) benefit from their online sales initiatives. There's fulfilment gold in them there online sales and the riches are supposed to flow back down to the reseller channel.
But what's to stop Compaq from chucking a spanner in the works and offering "its" customers (we all know they are reseller customers!) the chance to purchase goods directly from Compaq? Nothing.
All Compaq needs to say is customer Joe Bloggs can dump his under-performing reseller in favour of a vendor that always puts it first. Again, it's open season on customers who are prepared to sit back and watch their reseller and vendor partners duke it out for their business.
Like it or not, your customers are, deep down, as fickle as they come. If they can get a better deal elsewhere it may be a tough decision but they may just drop you in favour of the dark side.
Mark my words, IBM Australia may be rubbishing the online PC sales idea now, but don't be surprised to hear 12 months down the track, or earlier, that online selling is the best present IBM could offer its channel partners.