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Dell’s new streamlined technical support offering for direct customers and channel partners met with mixed reviews following the PC maker’s announcement of the program on Feb. 5.

Long-time Dell resellers happily welcomed the ProSupport offering — particularly the prospect of bypassing scripted level one support — with open arms.

But other VARs, uncertain that they can really trust a company that built its business on a direct-only religion, took the wait-and-see attitude that has characterized the approach of many non-Dell partners over the last year. Their skepticism was not unexpected, analysts said.

"By building out these types of offerings with a managed and proactive support framework, Dell will be faced with some level of concern from its channel partners over competition for services revenue," said Gartner’s Tiffani Bova in a recent comprehensive report covering Dell’s sales channel transformation.

"Although Dell will be offering its PartnerDirect partners the opportunity to ‘white label’ these offerings and leverage the capabilities and tools under their own brand name, it will not reduce the caution with which the channel will approach this part of the relationship," she wrote.

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Indeed, non-Dell partner responses to the announcement indicated that the company still has a way to go to dispel VAR fears about dealing with Dell.

"We are anxiously watching what appears to be a dualistic Dell and aren’t making any moves until we learn if the allegedly channel-friendly new Dell will emerge victorious," said Stuart Raburn, president of TekLinks, a VAR based in Homewood, Ala., that caters to small and midsize businesses.

While "the messages seem to revolve around this new Dell, unfortunately nothing seems to have been done to change the old machinery. As an early EqualLogic partner, we have been told Dell will embrace us, yet the Dell direct reps are preparing to sell EqualLogic products to our customers," he said.

Existing Dell resellers, however, rejoiced in the new quick access to higher levels of support.

"It’s a waste of time to have to navigate the scripted level one support when we know, from experience, with Dell and in general, exactly what the problem is and the right resolution," said M.J. Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer of Jenaly Technology Group, a VAR in Portsmouth, N.H.

"Getting a fast track option like we have with other vendors is critical to being able to provide the most efficient level of services for our clients."

Dell’s Channel Chief, Greg Davis, has said that a Fast Track support option was one of the top requests coming from partners.

The ProSupport service announced Feb. 5 streamlines more than 10 previous commercial support offerings into just two, and calls for Dell technicians to take care of front-line service and support requests such as hardware repair, while leaving higher-end support issues like databases, heating and cooling, and virtualization to VAR partners.

And while Eze Castle Integration, a Boston-based provider of IT services to hedge fund companies, does provide such high-end IT services to its clients, Managing Director Bob Guilbert said the firm was unlikely to turn over customer ownership for other break/fix problems to Dell.

"We need to be the point-of-contact for our customers," he said. "We will continue to do that. Our business will also offer the value-added services from Dell, but we will not turn over the point-of-contact to Dell direct."

Guilbert also lauded Dell’s new ProSupport service, however.

"It allows us to be a much more effective provider to our clients," he said. "The Fast Track service will hopefully reduce downtime, and anything they can do to improve that is a plus."