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CHICAGO—In his first public appearance as Dell’s channel chief, Greg Davis raised some eyebrows and some hackles.

Davis, vice president of Dell’s Americas Channel Business, delivered the closing keynote speech to attendees at Ziff Davis Enterprise’s inaugural Channel Summit here on Sept. 19, after just three weeks on the job.

“It’s very much a journey for us,” Davis said, “So I hope you appreciate that I’m here; that we’re here.”

Davis said his mission at events like the Channel Summit was to solicit and listen to customer feedback and to incorporate the needs of potential channel partners into Dell’s offerings going forward.

Read more here about the challenges Dell faces in the channel.

Specifics of Round Rock, Texas-based Dell’s reseller programs, including deal registration, partner incentives, pricing and managed services, and vertical market initiatives were scant, though Davis promised Dell would make formal announcements by the end of 2007.

He stressed the importance of simplifying selling and purchasing decisions, and the vendor’s role in adding value to a partner’s solution by providing not only hardware and products, but “specific services with a specific value-add at specific cost.” Dell’s recent acquisition of Silverback Technologies, Davis said, will allow the company to integrate and scale managed services solutions based on the size and needs of channel partners.

Click here to read more about Dell’s Silverback aquisition and why it’s a cause for channel concern.

Dell’s overture to the channel was met by some attendees with overt skepticism, including Derik Bahl, owner of Quality Systems Solutions, an SMB-focused managed services provider in Carpentersville, Ill. Bahl resold Dell products in the past but has since moved away from the vendor.

“It seemed like a good way to get at least a couple points toward hardware revenue …, but we moved away from Dell because the margins weren’t there,” Bahl said. Of course, if his customers ask specifically for Dell hardware, he’ll get it for them, Bahl said, but he will not go out of his way to recommend the products or services to clients, since many of his customers care little about the branding on a particular solution.

David Tan, chief technology officer at CHIPS Computer Consulting, of Lake Success, N.Y., disagrees.

“Despite the fact that not everybody agreed with [Dell’s] strategy, their strategy did not change,” Tan said. “The Lenovos, the HPs all sort of changed their minds” when it came to channel strategy and partner incentives, he added.

Working with Dell, Tan said, allowed his company to assuage its customers and get business done.

Davis acknowledged that Dell hasn’t been held in the highest esteem in the channel, especially when it comes to pricing.

“We can do a better job at pricing and with our pricing strategy for our partners. You’ll hear more from us on pricing; that is an area where we can improve,” he said, adding that the company needed to “delicately balance a few things.”

Whether or not Dell can strike that delicate balance remains to be seen, but after only three weeks on the job, Davis is hopeful and excited. “I’m excited about the new role for the company,” he said. “Over the years we’ve had a great relationship with solution providers, and we are excited now that there’s a better opportunity to create a better and tighter relationship with solution providers.”