Intel processes more Irish system builders, by JOHN CRADDEN

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1 April 2005 | 0

After a decade of dealing with Irish customers from the UK, the world’s largest chipmaker has appointed a channel manager for Ireland and established a partner strategy aimed at recruiting more indigenous system builders and resellers.

Eoin McConnell, who previously worked as an Intel business development manager at the company’s Leixlip plant, has been working since late last year on building links with Irish partners and planning a number of marketing initiatives designed to upgrade the ‘cache’ of its partner programmes.

Speaking to Channels, McConnell said Intel sees a big opportunity to help system builders grow their business to levels comparable with other European countries. While around 13 percent of the Irish PC market is made up of white box vendors or system builders, according to IDC, there is potential for this to grow even more at the expense of the clear market leaders Dell and HP, who make up nearly 60 per cent of the market, said McConnell. ‘There’s a great opportunity for the system builder market here to grow, but it needs the support of Intel to do that.’

 

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On the reseller and system integrator side, he said that Intel is keen to build up awareness of its flagship ‘Premier Provider’ partner programme. Participating companies are expected to provide Intel processors and platforms as part of a complete system and engage with customers to a much higher degree than box shifters. The programme includes comprehensive and regular technical training, especially on Pentium 4 with its hyper-threading technology, and financial support for marketing initiatives.

There are currently only three Premier Providers in Ireland (Encom, CDSoft and FMS in Northern Ireland), but the fact that there are roughly 100 Intel Irish customers means that the potential to increase this number through an invitation based process is very high, said McConnell.

One newly introduced programme that is likely to arouse some curiosity among system builders is the Mobile Value Added Distributor programme, whereby a number of large distributors will act as agents for the supply of fully-built Intel-equipped ‘white box’ notebook PCs from OEMs in Taiwan. According to McConnell, MVADs act as distributor for notebook machines that system builders here would not have the sufficient cost base to build themselves. The complete notebooks can be branded and configured as the reseller’s own. Current MVADs include Intel authorised distributors including Microtronica/Arrow Electronics, Ingram Micro and Computer 2000.  Of the three, only UK-based Microtronica/Arrow has an Irish office.

McConnell suggests that many system builders and integrators will have a first-mover advantage in the production of products for the ‘digital home’ consumer market. A new family of Intel motherboards will be launched in June that can be integrated into a variety of different form factors for a home environment. One example of such technology is a TFT screen with a PC built into the back and a wireless keyboard and mouse.
‘It’s an opportunity for the channel because the channel is more agile,’ he said.

Another initiative from Intel a the build-your-own-server program called ‘Real Server Program’.  Sales of Intel’s Itanium (10 times the price of a Pentium 4 chip) and Xeon server chips have boosted the company’s sales in the first quarter of this year. Other marketing initiatives will involve mobile Centrino-based products, and Celeron mobile chips to target the low end notebook market.

Intel holds an EMEA Channel conference every six months but McConnell is to conduct a series of roadshows in the UK and Ireland in partnership with Microsoft.  He also hopes to link up with industry events, such as the forthcoming Gartner System Builder event in Dublin.

According to McConnell, the feedback from Irish customers has been positive, with many believing that the decision by Intel to formalise its Irish channel is long overdue. One particular advantage is in having local support from Intel when tendering for new contracts and also in facilitating greater links with the UK market.  In addition, Irish partners will benefit from more timely information on new products.

The response from Irish customers has been mixed. Gerry Kerr of CDSoft, one of three Intel Premier Providers, welcomed McConnell’s appointment and remit. Kerr said his experience of dealing with UK Intel representatives was less than satisfactory as he felt they knew little about the Irish market. He also welcomed the promise of better intelligence on new Intel products from McConnell and said his most important job would be to build up the cache of the Premier Provider programme to the same level as that of say, Microsoft’s Certified Partner programme.

However, Greg Geoghagen of Computer City was sceptical as to the possible advantages to his firm of Intel’s new Irish channel strategy.  He said his firm had met with McConnell and was told of how Intel could provide better information to the Irish channel about forthcoming Intel products.  However, Geoghagen argued that such information was already easily available to Computer City, which divides its processor loyalties 60 per cent AMD and 40 per cent Intel.

‘At the end of the day, Intel products are very reliable, very good processors but we don’t really sell processors, people come looking to us.’  He said, however, it was nice to know there is a local presence, and ‘someone popping in’, which he said was very important to his business.  When asked what he would really like from Intel, Geoghagen said he would like to be able to ‘buy processors from Intel for the same price that Dell pays.’

Brian O’Connor of 3D Logistics said his firm, which has some system building capabilities, will contemplate building closer links with Intel through its partner programme later this year.

10/05/04

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