The following is a true story. When we received an invitation from Acer Inc. to attend a major product announcement in early April, our first reaction was to pursue an interview with Acer President and CEO Gianfranco Lanci. After all, he is one of the most well-known executives outside of the U.S., and his company has the rare distinction of performing fairly well in a rather horrible market. Because he is based in Milan, Italy, it is also rare for Lanci to be within reach of our offices. So we assumed he would want to address the most pressing issues and concerns of the North American VAR community, politely answering a few questions from CRN.
Quite frankly, we were also reeling from the fact that a year earlier we had sent a reporter halfway around the world to speak with Lanci during Acer' s annual press and analyst day, only to be rebuffed. So, several weeks before his arrival on our shores, we began writing letters, calling his office and reaching out to Acer officials, the PR team and his influencers. To say the least, Acer is confused over the U.S. VAR channel and the largest media company that serves and informs the community.
One PR official told me she was confused by Acer herself and how to secure time with executives. Another, a Sara Schutte, who works on Lanci' s communications team, said Lanci only grants interviews to financial, business and IT publications. I had to remind her that CRN and Channelweb.com are indeed IT publications.
Every avenue led to a dead end. The circuitous path we took to gain Lanci' s insight into his goals and commitment to the U.S. VAR market led nowhere as well. Lanci came to New York and New Jersey, announced some neat new portable products, then quickly departed. Arrivederci.
He has the distinction of being the only CEO of a company that sells through the channel to duck us. We can only assume that the U.S. VAR market just isn't that important to Acer, especially after Dell moved in on its territory, signing deals with Ingram and Tech Data. Acer' s strategy of selling on price and remaining out of touch with its partners can only jeopardize its future here. If you want proof the company is clueless about its channel, just have your cousin or mom sign up to be an Acer reseller, as I did one afternoon; I recently received my April "Professional Price List," which contains estimated street prices and suggested retail prices for all Acer products.
The Oracle-Sun deal is going to be a ball to watch. After IBM took a look under the hood and parted ways with Sun, Oracle swooped in, making a dramatic $7.4 billion bid for the server, Java and storage company. If the deal goes through, Sun VARs will finally have a stable company to back them with channel and sales leadership that knows what it is doing. Never mind all the financial-based acquisition details -- concentrate on what this means for Oracle' s channel and how competitive it will be against the likes of IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Oracle has a chance to build a channel that can sell middleware, enterprise software, storage and servers to enterprise and midmarket accounts. Sound like a familiar strategy? Sure it does -" it's IBM's. Sun had a loose and poorly led channel and sales strategy. Oracle' s Judson Althoff and his partner team can create a powerful channel. The biggest issue they face, however, will center on how to get Oracle' s partners to support or sell Sun' s products. If they can be successful in crafting and executing a channel strategy, this could turn out to be the best deal Oracle has ever made.