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While consumers may be the ones buying the iPod, iPhone and Apple computers, many businesses have become more open to integrating these devices into their IT environments, and that spells opportunity for resellers.

That’s why IT distributor Tech Data is launching an Apple Lab to help its reseller channel partners and their end customers to get a closer look at solutions based on Apple technologies. The news comes at the same time as Wal-Mart’s announcement of a revamp of the consumer electronics sections of its stores and speculation that those stores may soon also be carrying Apple computers.

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While executives at Tech Data will not provide exact numbers, Tech Data says that it has seen an increase in sales of Apple computers including the MacBook and iMac.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in sales, both year over year and quarter over quarter, especially when compared to general notebook and desktop sales where we’ve seen declines,” says Brian Davis, Tech Data vice president of client systems product marketing.

Davis notes that while Tech Data does sell to a number of storefront operations that in turn sell to consumers, there has been plenty of new interest from business end users as well.

“There’s also been an uptick in third-party offerings and overall solutions from a server and storage perspective,” says Davis.

That’s why Tech Data’s Apple Specialized Business Unit has created a 450-square-foot Apple Lab at the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor’s 6,000-square-foot technology solutions center. The lab, announced May 19, is designed for resellers to use to demonstrate Apple products such as Apple computers, the iPod and iPhone, and how they can be used and integrated in small business, medium business and even enterprise business environments. It will also offer a host of third-party technology solutions that work with Apple technology, says Davis.

The Apple Lab is part of a broader Apple push by Tech Data, which is expanding its Apple Customer Summit events for reseller solution providers from just one event in previous years to three and maybe even four events this year. The summit events will focus on specific vertical end customers.

“We want to make sure resellers understand that Apple can be an end-to-end solution, from enterprise storage to a personal device, whether it’s a smartphone or an iPod Touch,” Davis says.

Solutions at Tech Data’s Apple Lab will range from Apple’s XServe products to Drobo storage products from Data Robotics to Parallels virtualization technology for the Apple platform.

Tech Data says the Apple Lab can be equipped to demonstrate a broad array of Apple-based and complementary third-party-based solutions for small business, medium business and enterprise business solutions including the following:

  • Server and desktop virtualization
  • IP video surveillance
  • Storage virtualization
  • Point-of-sale
  • Digital signage
  • Mobility
  • Windows on the Mac platform
  • Storage area networks
  • Professional audio/video editing and production
  • Professional photography

The Apple Lab will feature Apple products including the iPod, iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, Xserve and Apple TV, as well as accessories, peripherals and software from vendor partners that develop solutions for the Mac platform. Vendors include Altec Lansing, Autodesk, Axiom, BakBone, Canon, Check Point, EMC Retrospect, FileMaker, Imation, LaCie, Microsoft, Parallels, Promise Technology, QLogic, Ricoh, SanDisk, Seagate, Tandberg Data, U.S. Robotics, Verbatim and Western Digital.

Tech Data’s Apple Specialized Business Unit supports the Apple Lab. All members of the Apple SBU inside and field sales teams are certified Apple Product Professionals.