Charged with unexpectedly strong financial results for 1999, local Compaq managing director Ian Penman went into media overdrive last week.

And in an interview with ARN (page 1), the Compaq boss was full of praise for his Australian channel, while slinging off at that doyen of direct, Dell.

`We've got competitors out there that don't involve the channel in their business,' he said. And when asked how Compaq was faring against Dell, he responded `We'll be clearly number one, I don't know where they'll be, I haven't thought about it . . . I'd be surprised if we weren't double their business, but we're such a bigger business than PCs now . . . It's important to me, but what's more important is the solutions we're offering our customers.'

But in an emotional outburst about Compaq's channel partners, Penman said: `They're such an integral part of my business . . . I wish to show my appreciation for the efforts that they've made on behalf of Compaq . . . offering the best solution to their customer . . . whether it comes from Compaq directly or from a channel partner. The important cog in the wheel is the customer. And that customer needs to know . . . no matter what technology or support he requires, he's going to get from the Compaq team, whether it be a Compaq partner, retailer, integrator or distributor . . .

`We had a very good year last year in a very very tough environment. I don't think I've seen a tougher environment than 1999 . . . We've made money and improved our profitability and our partners have also grown.

I would like to say thank you to all of them for what was a very difficult year for lots of reasons and which turned out to be such a successful one.'

And in a further revelation, Penman acknowledged Compaq isn't the easiest company to deal with. `We have an ambition to be the easiest company to do business with . . . to buy from us, partner with us, work with us . . . and I don't think we've always been that way.

`We've got some work to do yet . . . I don't think we are today,' he said.

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