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Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems Inc., is launching a new VAR program this week that aims to drive Linksys products into the relatively robust small business market, offices with 25 or fewer users.

The Linksys Partner Connection Program provides value pricing, demo discounts, marketing tools and support and training to VARs interested in reselling networking hardware into the small business space. The first phase of the program rolls out to U.S. resellers today. It will be extended to European resellers next week, to Asian and Australian resellers later this month, and to VARs in Japan and Latin America on March 1. The program will be enhanced in phases later through this year.

Under the program, VARs can earn up to five additional points on Business Class products purchased from an authorized Linksys distributor. There will be special technical support available through support centers, toll-free telephone calls and e-mail. The vendor’s Web site will be used for Web casts, program updates and online e learning for VAR sales people. A channel media campaign, end user marketing campaigns and electronic welcome kits are also part of the new program.

Products covered by the program include 10/100 Ethernet and Gigabyte switches, KVM switches, wireless routers, cards and adapters; print servers; 10/100 and 10/1000 network cards, security solutions; network storage solutions and Internet video cameras.

Upfront discounts, no volume requirements

“We are targeting the small business market with this program. We see it as very vibrant right now,” said Tushar Kathari, vice president and general manager for Linksys.

Kathari said the Linksys channel program has at least two distinguishing features from typical VAR recruitment efforts. For one thing, instant, “upfront” discounts will be made available to Linksys VARs from distributor partners at the time of purchase, so VARs won’t have to wait until the end of the quarter to receive the discounts as rebates. (Linksys distributes its product line through distributors Ingram Micro and Tech Data). Also, there are no volume requirements to participate in the program.

Kathari estimates that Linksys already serves approximately 8,000 resellers through its distributors. The Partner Connection Program is an effort to formalize those ties, provide more services and discounts and reach out to even more VARs. Existing reseller customers will need to sign up for the program through the Web site; enrollment isn’t automatic. (To apply online, visit