Yet another hardware vendor will pursue the direct sales model, with NEC unveiling NEC Online, an e-commerce portal for its commercial division.
The company maintains its online strategy is designed to help rather than hinder the channel, working as a "demand generator" to push customers through to value-add providers, according to the general manager for NEC Australia's commercial division, Julian Walthew.
"It is more of an information centre than a shop site," Walthew maintained. "But we are saying if customers do really want to buy online, they can. We need to compete against the likes of Dell."
The new site is part of a global marketing strategy for NEC Computers International (NEC CI) rolled out in Europe in recent months. NEC claims rather than creating channel conflict, the portal is designed to help resellers generate sales.
"Since its introduction in France, NEC CI has seen a sharp rise in the number of sales through its traditional reseller channel, reflecting this emphasis," said Commercial Division marketing manager, Arno Lenior.
"We see our channel partners as extremely important to our existence in Australia," Walthew affirmed.
NEC promised pricing on the consumer site would protect reseller margins. Walthew also pledged the site would only sell a limited range of items such as the Versa range of notebooks and "lifestyle" PCs.
"We are looking to our partners to value add," he said. "Customers are given several choices; they can go to a dealer, talk online or pay at the site. Most customers want configuration help, upgrade options and software and peripheral sales and this is where the dealer comes in."
The portal includes a Web site exclusive to resellers. Called Connection, the channel site is "part of the plethora of ways of using e-commerce in a whole range of NEC areas", designed to help the channel with stock availability, downloadable forms, support, price books, training material and warranty information.
NEC also announced a new range of desktops, including the PowerMate ES slimline series, the PowerMate 2000 microdesktop PC and the ValueStar III. The new additions recognise that space and style are key factors in the marketplace, and also include key security features such as PIN code access. In the server range, NEC has launched a range of Express 5800 servers designed for a number of customer segments, from SMEs to enterprise computing.