Intel-Apple Relationship: Boon or Bust for VARs?By Elliot Markowitz | Print
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Opinion: Once the hype dies down, Apple will remain a niche player unless it changes its ways and at last embraces the channel.
So Apple and Intel are finally seeing eye to eye and the first Macs powered by the leading chip maker are nearly ready to hit the market.
At the recent Macworld event, Steve Jobs, the charismatic Apple CEO took the covers off the first Macs that will use Intel chips, showing off new iMac all-in-one desktops and two MacBook Pro notebooks.
All of these machines will run Intel's Core Duo processors, with the new laptops running four to five times faster than Apple's existing PowerBook and the iMacs running two to three times faster than current G5 PowerPCs, according to Jobs, that is.
This move has the potential to be a big boon for Apple, Intel and solutions providers because Intel loyalists now have a reason to check out the ease of use, productivity and appeal of Macs.
Plus, in this day and age when most users are tired of playing Russian roulette every time they do a Google search for fear of a new worm or virus spreading through their machines, the more secure OS that accompanies the Mac can be a big attraction.
In fact, this combination of security and better performance has the potential to make the Mac a serious candidate for businesses again as IT departments are under enormous pressure to justify every IT dollar spent and are perpetually trying to keep their systems secure. But let me emphasize "potential."
There are many "ifs," "ands" and "buts" that go along with the new Intel/Apple love affair. And while faster, sleeker machines powered by the mighty Intel are certainly appealing, and long overdue, the partnership will make little penetration outside the traditional Mac user base without the support of the channel. And there's the rub.
While Job's charisma certainly made many who attended his keynote at Macworld want to rush out and buy the new Macs, Apple's challenge is to win over solution providers that currently don't push the Mac platform.
Remember, Jobs was playing to a friendly crowd here. Gaining the trust of resellers will not be easy as some of these folks have been burned by Apple in the past and have not forgotten.
As long as Apple continues to push its own Apple Store, smart VARs will stay away from the platform. All the technology in the world will not win over a VAR and cause him to build and sell a solution if at the very core of that solution is a vendor that is hell-bent on competing with its channel.
This is the age-old channel conflict scenario that has been plaguing Apple for far too long. Many solution providers remember investing heavily in building sales and services around the Mac, only to have Apple come in and take their authorizations away in an attempt to take the business direct. Many of these folks still don't trust Apple today.
So while analysts and Apple lovers fawn over the new Intel-powered Macs ready to hit the street, I am going to take a more contrarian approach and say that after the hype wears down and the technology and business press stops falling all over themselves, Macs will still be a niche product that flourishes only in niche verticals until Apple shows the solution provider community that there is a comprehensive channel building strategy that goes along with the new offering.
Solution providers need to see a strategy designed with a long-term channel partnership plan at its core and not a short-term market growth bet. Prove me wrong, Apple.
Elliot Markowitz is Editor-at-Large of ChannelInsider.com. He is also Editorial Director of Ziff Davis eSeminars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org