Apple Still Pushes VARs' Emotional ButtonsBy Elliot Markowitz | Posted 2005-06-07 Email Print
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Opinion: VARS haven't forgotten the company's shoddy past treatment, so they have no real hopes that the just-announced partnership with Intel will change Apple's channel approach.Nothing stokes the VAR community more than talking about Apple's channel strategy.
While there is no argument that Dell Inc. has been a channel killer for years before it started working with integrators and service providers, the mere mention of sales and service opportunities around the Mac platform raises a reseller's ire to alarming proportions.
Resellers have a long memory, I guess, and the old adage of "It's better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all" does not translate to selling Apple products.
But I quickly found that once I started calling on my old channel sources "the memories fade but the scars still linger," as one of my favorite alternative '80s bands sang.
As one reseller so bluntly put it, "I don't see VARs embracing Apple because of the emotional baggage of them [expletive] us two or three times in the past. I think Intel will find a way to make Apple a more mainstream retail/home product, but I don't see any major business applications yet. But they could come."
Wow, the topic still hits a nerve.
It reminds me of a time way back in my early channel reporting days when I was attending an Intelligent Electronics event in New Orleans and Jim Buckley, then head of Apple's channel, was blowing a lot of hot air saying he wanted to partner with resellers and grow the business together.
I vividly remember Ron Cook, who still owns Ron Cook's Connecting Point in the Las Vegas area, standing up and shouting back at Buckley, "I am not comfortable with Apple being my partner."
The outburst sparked a bunch of laughs but also a round of applause. This was back in the mid-90s, and since then Apple has destroyed its once-loyal reseller channel base.
Sure, there are still Apple specialty shops around, but the company missed the boat big-time by undercutting its resellers, fooling around with inventory and favoring its direct reps, and never opening up the Mac OS to VARs to build more customized and vertical solutions.
These issues still get Cook going today.
"Apple has a channel that they keep screwing over," Cook told me. "Apple dealers are constantly faced with direct competition from the vendor and no support. Most resellers have a better relationship with Dell than Apple," he said.
Although Cook doesn't deal with Apple products anymore, the company's past treatment of its resellers still burns bright in his eyes.
And while Apple's channel has not evolved since that fateful Buckley standoff years ago, Cook's Connecting Point has grown into a $12 million business offering managed services and VOIP solutions.
But maybe, just maybe, this new Intel relationship will open new doors for Apple and give the vendor the opportunity to redeem itself in the channel's eyes.
For one, John Norman, a systems engineer at Advanced Systems Group, is trying to look at the glass as half full.
Norman said the Intel deal may encourage more developers to port their applications over to OS X, as it will make the platform more similar to the X86 PC family.
It may also allow Apple to lower the cost of its hardware platform and release new models more quickly, resulting in less-expensive systems.
This has been a main hurdle that businesses have not gotten over. While Norman attests that his publishing and graphic arts customers favor Apple machines, his business customers don't.
However, with the channel's help, this all can change. The channel's scars run deep with regard to Apple, but they also love a comeback story if it makes them money.
Elliot Markowitz is editor at large at The Channel Insider. He is also editorial director for Ziff Davis eSeminars.