When online=offline

When online=offline

"If blood is thicker than water, how thick is the Internet?"

Loyalty is a subject often talked about in the channel, and that can mean "please keep buying from us" just as much as "and don't stab me in the back!". We've reached a milestone in the use of the Internet, with it being used by most IT resellers and a workable percentage of homes and corporate users. That's lent itself to two phenomena, albeit opposite in effect. They both concern the IT vendor and they both affect resellers.

The first is positive. Most vendors, and increasing numbers of distributors, now have very useful web areas for resellers. They range from open, general-interest areas with no sensitive information, to closed, invitation-only areas which contain vast amounts of data aimed at making the reseller's job easier, more efficient and more profitable.

While not all Australian resellers have started using these resources yet, most who have say they couldn't do without them. The ability to do all of these things after normal business hours, alone, is a godsend for many time-strapped resellers. And what we see today is nothing compared to the power of tomorrow's systems, with promise of much greater flexibility in the way resellers conduct business, such as streamlined access to finance.

Tails, you lose

But the flipside of this new technology is how the vendor uses it. Many software vendors are discovering just how easy it is to sell software, direct to end-users, via the Internet. While it's easy to understand how start-up software vendors or those which have known better days could be attracted to online selling, 1997 will be the year that the big software vendors start selling online.

To what extent the reseller is kept in the loop has yet to be seen, but I can't see why they'll bother. For instance, if Microsoft decides to sell Office97 or its components on the Net, that can be quite convenient for some users, both for personal and site-licensed versions. If it then offers an automated "push-upgrade" service that keeps the user updated with the latest in-line versions, it can charge just a small amount each time, yet when multiplied by millions of seats around the world, this becomes quite a cash-cow.

And why would Microsoft (and this means any vendor) keep resellers in this loop? I can't think of many reasons. Loyalty, after all, always seems to give way to financial pragmatism. It won't stop there either, because as online selling and delivery and the centralisation of support services increase, the need for country offices will decrease. Perhaps one day all sales and support for some vendors will come from a single country. India perhaps?

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