Network Associates has denied returning to McAfee's old electronic sales methodology, following a series of e-mail promotions offering consumers $US25 discounts if they purchase anti-virus products online.
Allan Bell, senior marketing manager for Network Associates, attempted to reassure the vendor's channel yesterday, saying that the offer was made through McAfee.com, a separate business entity which is 85 per cent owned by Network Associates.
"McAfee.com is simply another channel for sales, I don't think it presents any threat to Australian resellers," Bell said. "It is restricted to single node sales, targeted at home users as opposed to resellers who target small to medium to large businesses."
He claims McAfee.com has no access to Network Associates client lists and feels the lack of local support will see a limited uptake by Australian consumers.
"We have a strong channel in this region," Bell said. "The reseller is extremely important in offering a complete solution."
While McAfee distributors are not jumping the gun regarding the McAfee.com offer, they admit to constant concern about vendors using their client lists to cut distributors out of the loop.
"Most vendors in Australia have some online sales strategy, whether it is based overseas or locally . . . We would prefer they didn't, but there's no way around it," said John Browleit, marketing manager for Marketing Results.
Browleit said that while margins on $100 upgrades and anti-virus products are not large, McAfee is a key component of the distributor's business. The introduction of a direct sales model at any level also fosters concerns that the trend will scale-up to include the more lucrative corporate licenses.
Contributing to the channel's distress is McAfee's history as the vendor who set the tone for electronic distribution. "The decision [by McAfee] to get into retail was made on the argument, 'Well, it's exposure isn't it'" according to a reseller who was working with the vendor at the time.
This dubious perception has not improved since joining Network Associate's ranks in 1997, as the parent company itself is a long-time sufferer of channel management issues.