Compaq's decision not to select a recognised Alpha distributor is set to become an ongoing saga for the vendor, its distributors and more particularly its resellers, who remain sceptical of Express Data's expertise until otherwise proven.
The Compaq/Digital merger has created an underlying eddy of discontent with some resellers feeling deserted even before the current decision to exclude Alstom, MUA and Hallmark, the three Alpha distributors, from its ranks was made.
"Alpha technology has been a significant differentiation for us from people who have just offered Intel so our relationship with Compaq is integral to our business," explains Tony Taylor, managing director of reseller Synergy. However, Taylor is sceptical about Compaq living up to its end of the bargain. "Compaq hasn't come to grips with certain technologies yet and at the moment isn't up to dealing with complex issues," Taylor claims.
The recent decision to appoint Express Data as Compaq's Alpha distributor has deepened many resellers' concerns about Compaq's intentions towards the high end of the market.
"My first reaction was total bewilderment that Compaq hadn't selected Alstom," said Walter Rosader, managing director of Extranet Systems adding that "whilst Express Data is a wonderful distribution company, I don't know if they have any Alpha skills". Rosader believes he has been forced to deal with two distributors when one would have served him, and Alpha customers, more efficiently. "If pushed, I will deal with Express Data but my loyalty lies with Alstom and they have been doing Alpha for the past eight years. I will stick to their decisions."
According to Taylor, Synergy has already started to diversify and "in the last couple of days has finalised several major deals that include alternatives to Alpha".
Ross Cochrane, managing director of Express Data, defends both its ability and Compaq's commitment to the Alpha range. "Express Data is a technical distribution company that has been involved in network operating systems for many years.
Well within capabilities
"Server technologies are well within our technical capabilities and Compaq is absolutely committed to Alpha and to Express Data. They are working closely with us to market the product."
Alstom IT chief executive Laurie Sellers does not doubt that Express Data will eventually be able to fill the position Alstom does now in the Alpha market. What concerns him more at the moment is whether "Express Data can move towards being an Alpha value-add distributor and systems integrator when we are already there. What is everyone going to do in the meantime?
Compaq have told us they have been inundated with calls asking exactly the same question."