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A Microsoft SMB executive claims the company is standing by its SMB plan to make CompUSA a spear point in driving SMB demand.

The pair announced on March 12 yet another exclusive deal to link CompUSA SMB sales to Microsoft’s SBSC (Small Business Specialist) partners working with local stores.

CompUSA’s own small business sales team will direct customers buying Redmond’s SMB wares toward heftier purchases and to services delivered under the banner of its CompUSA TechPro Business Providers program, but by SBSCs.

This comes after Microsoft and CompUSA inked a deal in November to make CompUSA the earliest retailer to sell Vista Business and Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 and the only one to sell it by volume license agreement.

The goal has been to tie SMB demand at retail, where Microsoft estimates more than 50 percent of SMBs (50 seats and under) source product, to SBSCs, for a richer experience, said Cynthia Bates, Microsoft’s general manager of the small-business division for the U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group.

But the question is, how much demand is there at CompUSA sites now that there are 126 fewer of them.

Bates said she isn’t concerned about there being fewer locations. One hundred and three sites remain in 39 states and the deal puts CompUSA’s call center to work ringing phones on behalf of SBSCs.

“We’re trying to bring them our customers,” said Mark Gertenbach, CompUSA’s director of technology services. Once in the hands of SBSCs, CompUSA is hoping the richer experience encourages them to come back for more product, whether it be software, desktops or PCs, he said.

Bates said the company intends to make similar arrangements with CompUSA’s competitors.

Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, called the partnership a benefit to SBSCs regardless of CompUSA’s recent troubles.

“[SMBs] don’t buy enough to make it worth the while of even a small partner to chase them down with conventional advertising or promotions,” he said. “MS has created a partner program to reach them [SBSC], but that hasn’t met MS expectations for numbers, and one reason is that the company doesn’t have a good way to drive business to them, as it can do with many of its other partner specializations… The good thing about retail is that the customer doesn’t need to be reached. They drive themselves in.”

Any lost sales of Microsoft at CompUSA stores, DeGroot added, would likely be made up two blocks down the street at Best Buy or Staples, both of which run their own services practices.