IN THE HOT SEAT: Building to converge

IN THE HOT SEAT: Building to converge

Intel Australia’s Andrew McLean prides himself on his empathy for the IT channel. Alongside seven years inside Intel’s channel programs and partners business, McLean has chalked up six years in IT distribution, and a stint in IBM’s mainframe division. As A/NZ sales manager for reseller channel organisation (RCO), McLean is now focused on building the vendor’s motherboards, server and mobility partnerships. McLean sat down with Nadia Cameron to chat about the company’s plans for fostering the local system builder industry.

Tell us about your position at Intel.

Andrew McLean (AM): I’m purely focused on RCO and sales across that area these days.

The RCO position covers all of those Australian system builders who purchase Intel products from Intel’s authorised distributors. The products we sell can be processors, motherboards, server chassis, and associated products. The RCO features a team of account managers, distribution managers and channel marketing people.

Can you tell us about some of the changes you have or are putting in place since you started this job?

AM: A lot of my work so far has been looking at the landscape. We have brought on a new distribution account manager. We are beefing up our channel platform manager resourcing and we’ve been focusing some of our channel account managers and resources to bring specialisation to our different product sets. There are various parts of our business we need to grow and to do that we need more focus.

Can you be a bit more specific on those areas?

AM: One of these is the mobile business. We need local manufacturers to increase the offerings that they take our to their customer base to cater to the trend towards mobility.

Several of our distributors are starting to form direct relationships with the large Taiwanese Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs). Mobile is different to desktop in that you have these big Taiwanese ODMs manufacturing for anyone selling notebooks — locals or multinationals. We have distributors now who are going out to resellers without direct relationships to an ODM and aggregating their demand. They are sourcing the chassis, Intel provides the processors, and distributors are offering services such as spare parts availability, or warranties which they onsell to resellers.

Is there a strong base for mobility development in Australia?

AM: There is currently growth across all product segments in Australia, but mobile growth year-by-year has been strong. Typically, the local manufacturers have been very strong with desktops or servers.

Another area we’re looking at is motherboard sales. This is an area we are expecting more significant growth this year.

We are also looking at the server business with several resellers who are interested going further with servers — that is moving beyond standard workgroup servers and starting to look at enterprise products such as blade servers and 64-bit technology.

It was clear from Intel’s 915 and 925 chipset launch recently that there is a big push from the company into digital convergence. What impact does this have on your channel?

AM: What we’re doing is creating platforms which will allow system builders in the local channel to build more entertainment-oriented PCs which do multiple things at the same time.

We are also training partners as well, including technical, hands-on sessions, to teach them how to build and optimise these systems. We also do Intel channel conferences.

Internationally, Intel is involved in the Digital Living Network Alliance, which includes IT and CE companies. The premise the digital convergence movement is based on is that all content is going digital — whether this be content through broadband, broadcast, video cameras or mobile phones. To share that among devices in the home you need to have agreed technical standards. We’re driving those standards as well as providing products which the CE and IT manufacturers can work with. We see this as one of the four key revenue growth areas for Intel over the next three to four years.

The beauty of it is that you do not have to be a multinational organisation to build devices which take advantage of the shift because we’re putting the building blocks in place. Local system builders can take advantage of these in the same way they have been able to use our products for the desktop PC market to produce high quality machines.

My hope is that system builders will start looking at their own skill sets to address and market to users who want this technology. Or they will team up with organisations already operating in the consumer electronics space. For instance, some of the high-end audio shops. With the store defining the type of products they need, the local system builder is in a position to go and build these for them.

Have you had much feedback from local system builders on this convergence?

AM: They are enthusiastic. It is a massive opportunity because it takes them into a whole new segment. You look at what is in an entertainment unit now in the home: you have a DVD drive or a DVD recorder with a hard drive, CD burner. What we’re trying to do is point out that you can merge all of those bits into one box. It’s essentially a PC platform. And there are thousands of guys in Australia building PCs every week. While they couldn’t build a VHS player, they can certainly build a device which has a hard drive and DVD burner that can capture free to air television. I think it’s quite empowering for them.

Finally, if you weren’t a channel manager, what would you be doing instead?

AM: Sitting on a rock writing poetry or something (laughs). I’d probably do something related to music or the arts. But my qualifications in those fields are somewhat limited. And you’ve got to stick with what you’re good at. Working with Intel and having three kids under five doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things.

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