Sony has raised the hair on a number of its dealers' necks with persistent rumours in the presentation market suggesting the vendor may be selling its video projection equipment directly to some of its key accounts.
Sony has denied the allegations but some resellers are convinced the practice is happening.
The vendor splits its video projection sales into two markets, professional AV sales and IT sales, and according to some sources in contact with ARN the vendor's Audio Video division has begun targeting certain accounts with direct sales.
The allegations come at a time when the presentation market is flying in the face of a general downturn in the PC market, growing at up 35-60 per cent per year according to some industry pundits.
The presentation market, which includes video and digital projectors, electric whiteboards, video conferencing and collaboration equipment and rear projection screens, has continued to flourish and market research conducted by International Data Corp. pegged the market as worth US$4.6 billion worldwide in 2000.
The market hasn't slowed in line with the rest of the PC industry many believe because in times of tough business, professional looking presentations and pitches become paramount. The education and training sector has also rallied the sales of presentation equipment.
Ronald Jarvis, managing director of BBF - a distributor that sells a range of Sony video projectors, claims that while he has not encountered direct competition from Sony as yet, he has heard about it.
Jarvis has expressed concern about the possibility of Sony going direct because of how it could affect the channel's relationship with its customers.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Coles Myer-owned reseller Harris Technologies claims the company has only recently taken on Sony's video projectors but would find the prospect of the vendor going direct alarming.
"If [Harris Technologies] did come across it we would be very vocal about it," the spokesperson warned.
Warren Bolton, managing director of Electroboard - a company that sells a rival range of video projectors, is taking an opportunistic approach to the allegations that Sony is moving direct. Bolton claims a number of dealers have approached Electroboard for alternate products.
Electroboard is currently halfway through a national road show in which it is showcasing half a million dollars worth of its latest presentation equipment. Bolton is boasting some substantial growth figures for Electroboard's projector sales with boardroom size video projectors growing around 35 per cent and portable (one kilogram) projectors growing at 60 per cent.
"The last figures I heard was that 18 million presentations are done in the US everyday. That gives you an idea of how big this market really is," he said.
One of Sony's largest video projector distributors, TasmanAV, claims the vendor has always looked after its interests. Carl Pellegrino, a TasmanAV spokesperson, said Sony always passes through leads.
Sony marketing manager, Business Communications Group, Ian Lowe, refuted there is any channel conflict with its go to market strategy.
Lowe was adamant that the vendor does not sell directly, however stated it would step into a deal in cases where an integrator couldn't support the sale.
He also clarified Sony has a number of business development managers that contact customers, but claims any opportunities are farmed back through the channel.