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ATLANTA&#151Ingram Micro is launching a program to help resellers profit by recycling old computer products while encouraging the resellers to seek business opportunities in new technologies.

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor is promoting two initiatives to its elite reseller group, the VentureTech Network, which has gathered in Atlanta for a three-day, relationship-building event to share best practices and discuss ideas.

One of the initiatives is an online service, Ingram Micro Outlet for North America, through which resellers can profit from discarding old technology. VARs can trade used equipment in working condition, such as laptops and LCD flat-panel monitors, in exchange for credits to their Ingram Micro accounts.

The second initiative is the East Coast Solutions Center, due to open in Buffalo, N.Y., later this month. The center will bring vendors and resellers together to test and learn how to use technologies designed for the digital home market.

The hardware-recycling program is an additional piece in a product-life-cycle approach Ingram Micro is encouraging VARs to take as managed-services providers, according to Ingram Micro executives.

In the managed services concept, VARs enter recurring-revenue contracts with customers by taking over their IT functions rather than simply providing the hardware and software.

Already available to resellers in Canada, the outlet solves the problem of what to do with used equipment, according to Justin Crotty, vice president of channel marketing for Ingram Micro North America.

It is an environmentally friendly and compelling incentive for companies to initiate the technology refresh cycle.

“We want to ignite product refresh, and do it faster than a typical customer might do it,” said Crotty.

From the user perspective, having someone else take care of used-product disposal is attractive, said David Hudgins, president of PC Products & Services, a VentureTech member in Greensboro, N.C.

VARs can use product disposal as another incentive when trying to close a deal, he said. “It’s becoming part of the conversation.’

What to do with old products has been a vexing question for a lot of companies.

“I know a couple of companies that are just renting warehouse space and stacking it up,” Hudgins said.

Computer equipment, particularly monitors, contain large quantities of toxic material, including lead and other heavy metals, that make them environmentally unfriendly and difficult to discard in areas with environmental protection legislation.

Typically, however, according to Gary Redshaw, CEO of Future Vision, Raleigh, N.C., another VentureTech member, old product “hits the dumpster.”

Offered in conjunction with eBay’s Rethink Initiative, which seeks to address the problem of electronic waste, the outlet allows resellers to register at and log on to the trade-in site at Ingram Micro to obtain instant quotes for discarding used equipment.

“They box it up, send it in, and they get their payment,” Crotty said. Ingram Micro credits the VAR’s account following receipt and verification of the items.

Products the distributor is accepting through the outlet now include desktops, laptops, LCD flat-panel monitors, digital cameras, cell phones and audio receivers, but more will be added in the future.

Partners in disposal.

The distributor has contracted with a couple of disposal companies that sell whatever is still marketable and break down the rest for recycling.

To help facilitate outlet transactions, Ingram Micro partnered with software provider LTW to use its Reality Asset Check inventory and evaluation application for the service.

VARs may use Reality Asset Check to qualify products for trade-in and submit them for a credit quote.

In addition to helping VARs dispose of old technology, Ingram Micro wants to guide them toward emerging opportunities with the new technology center in Buffalo.

Available for use by North America Ingram Micro VARs and vendors, the center is equipped with more than $5 million in technology from more than 85 vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Citrix, Viewsonic and McAfee.

“We’ll have manufacturers sponsor events, and they bring customers in,” said Brian Wiser, Ingram Micro senior vice president of marketing.

In addition to a classroom, a conference room and labs, the center will showcase a “digital living room” with technology from various vendors.

The center’s training rooms and labs follow the footprint of a similar facility Ingram Micro launched at the distributor Santa Ana headquarters in 2001. A digital home showcase is also being built in Santa Ana.

VARs may use the centers for technology proof-of-concept activities; live demonstrations; one-on-one technical briefings; video demonstrations; specific vendor training sessions; and fast-track training for solution providers who wish to use the centers as an extension of their sales forces.

With the outlet and digital home initiatives, Ingram Micro executives said they hope to guide VARs toward new profit opportunities.

Ray Morton, director of technical services at Clarksburg, Md.-based Daly, a VentureTech member, said he plans to visit the solution center in Buffalo to find out more about the technologies it will showcase.

He has started evaluating whether to seek business in the digital home space, which he believes will get a boost as more people start working in remote offices.

While the remote office has been expected to take off for years, Morton said that with gas prices climbing and traffic conditions worsening in metro areas, the time may finally be right.