Enter the Channel

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

Too much is invested in the channel for Microsoft's management team to rock the channel boat.


Enter the channel. 

"In Microsoft's heyday, they had their best successes in the enterprise—when everyone was deploying Exchange servers, when people were moving to Windows 95 and 98," said Bahl.

Many VARs also fared exceedingly well during those high times.

"At the beginning, with those big OS releases, Gates, [Steve] Ballmer and all of the management team were very aware of the role the channel played," said Michael Cherry, an analyst at research company Directions on Microsoft. He added that the relationship between Microsoft and its channel organization has always been symbiotic.

"Microsoft really is a company most people don't deal with directly," Cherry said. Consumer products are sold through retail channels and preinstalled on hardware from OEMs, and, no matter their size, businesses deal mostly with Windows VARs, he said.

Of course, without the channel, Microsoft could have sold in other ways, including direct, but it perhaps wouldn't have been so profitable, Cherry said.  And, without Microsoft, there would have been plenty of other options to keep VARs busy, he said. 

"If not Windows, it's a safe bet to say something else would have come along," Cherry said. "There were plenty of other competitors, including Apple and Commodore." For example, successful VAR channels have sprung up around other computer systems, including Novell’s NetWare, he said.

In the wake of Gates' departure from day-to-day activities at Microsoft, one thing channel players can do to ensure their future success is to partner not just with Microsoft but with each other—to ensure they're reaching the widest possible audience.

"I like to call it 'co-opetition,’" Bahl said. "Partners are realizing that they have to partner with each other and not just with vendors against one another."

Bahl added that Microsoft has been instrumental in pushing the concept of VARs partnering to build on their respective strengths rather than adding entirely new competency areas within single VARs.

"Microsoft has done a lot toward forging connections between different VARs, which helps us, and it also helps them," Bahl said. "Together, we sell and manage many more products."

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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