What's The Score?


Following are 18 pages with detailed information on the winners--and losers--in each of the ARC categories. from Client and Server Processors to Workgroup Color Printers, here's the skinny.


Client & Server Processors

By Damon Poeter

In winner-take-all contests, it's easy to dismiss the accomplishments of the second-place finisher, even if the victor only won by the slimmest of statistical margins. Indeed, in some of the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey categories, the difference between first place, second place and even third place really isn't all that much.

Client and Server Processors is not one of those categories.

Intel Corp.'s ARC win over runner-up Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in the Client and Server Processors category was the equivalent of a landslide victory in a presidential election. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant scored an overall 79 and beat AMD by at least 12 points in all three ARC criteria—product innovation, support and partnership. Intel also bested AMD in all 17 subcategories of the ARC survey.

Intel's new co-CIO Diane Bryant said the predictability of the vendor's "tick-tock" model of product innovation and steady investment in a partner ecosystem are the keys to Intel's success.

"When you look at what it takes to deliver a high-performance solution to the market, it starts with the silicon products we deliver. But then you need the system integrators, the software environment and the whole ecosystem, and Intel invests heavily in building out that ecosystem," Bryant said.

Partners such as Falcon Northwest depend on Intel to deliver in-demand products in a timely fashion, said Bradd Berdelman, general manager of the Medford, Ore.-based builder of enthusiast systems.

"You know, product innovation in general isn't just about execution on a specific product's performance, it's about bringing a product to market that consumers actually want," he said. Berdelman also said he wasn't surprised by Intel's strong showing in the various Partnership ratings, but added that AMD wasn't far behind its larger competitor on channel-specific performance.

Product delivery issues plagued Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD at the start of 2007. The chip maker's financials continued to suffer for a second straight year, due in part to the costly acquisition of graphics chip maker ATI and the delayed rollout of its first quad-core client and server processors.

Which isn't to say there isn't potential good news on the horizon for AMD. The chip maker said it's on track to match Intel's 45-nanometer fabrication process for CPUs by year's end, while on the GPU front, the ATI Radeon HD 4000 series has been cutting chunks out of rival Santa Clara, Calif.-based Nvidia Corp.'s discrete graphics market share, according to partners.

"Last year, our product mix was 90 percent Nvidia to 10 percent ATI," said Darren Su, executive VP of El Monte, Calif.-based system integrator iBuyPower. "In mid-September, that ratio is already 70 to 30, and we expect it to switch around to 60 or even 70 percent ATI by the end of the year."

Next: Client Security Software

Client Security Software

By Stefanie Hoffman

Partnership in the channel is not an afterthought, it's a primary way of taking our technology to market," said John Eddy, senior vice president of sales of the Americas for Kaspersky Lab, Woburn, Mass.

It's a philosophy that has served the company well. As the emerging 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey champion in Client Security Software, Kaspersky Lab rose head and shoulders above many of its competitors, acing the product innovation subcategory with an overall score of 85, boosted by a 98 in the criteria of product quality and reliability and a 91 in compatibility and ease of integration.

"We're always making sure we maintain a very positive business culture," Eddy said. "Our company was built and grew on relationships—the relationship that we have with our customers, with our partners. We never ever want to get to the point where we're managing our business on a spreadsheet."

In particular, Kaspersky channel execs said that the company has made it a point to excel in product innovation with high-quality technology in its core competency areas of endpoint security, mail servers and gateways.

"You have to have a great product. At the very foundation, making sure we're innovative," said Randy Drawas, chief marketing officer for the Americas. "We're highly rated for protection against malware. It's always seen as a very light footprint on the endpoint, where it's not slowing the systems down. That's probably one of the biggest levels of discontent—that people feel like these products are very heavy and they impede the user's experience."

While Kaspersky might have been the newest to join the ranks of the ARC champions, its win was far from a surprise for the company's channel partners.

Monte Robertson, CEO and founder of Lakewood, Colo.-based Software Security Solutions, said that Kaspersky's vision and forward-thinking products, such as signature databases, hourly updates and whitelisting technologies, aligned with his own company's mission, which aims to promote early-adopter companies for leading-edge security solutions.

"I admire their courage to take these bold steps. It really shows they're a thought leader in this industry," Robertson said. "Plus, they're just very customer-focused. ... Not only are they visionary, but they also listen."

Close on Kaspersky's heels was Lynnfield, Mass.-based Sophos Inc., which ranked slightly lower with an overall score of 82 in product innovation."

"It wasn't entirely a surprise. We were hoping the additional program and work we've done over the year would show results," said Chris Doggett, Sophos director of channel sales in North America. "On the product side, we've been a company that has been leading the industry, and that certainly continues to show with very high scores overall."

In particular, Sophos surpassed many of its competitors with high scores in product innovation, punctuated by a score of 95 in product quality and reliability. Doggett said that Sophos prided itself on both presales and postsales support—two areas where the company received scores of 81.

Doggett said that the company's ARC scores also increased across the board in areas that included return on investment, ease of doing business, and revenue and profit potential.

Sophos' scores fell slightly short, however, in the partnership subcategory of revenue and profit potential, as well as the support subcategory of training—areas where the company was putting effort into improving, Doggett said.

"We're happy with the results," he said. "We had hoped and expected to see an increase. That's been a very good confirmation of what we're continuing to work on."

Next: Data and Information Management Software

Data & Information Management Software

By Rick Whiting

The 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card scores for the three major data and information management software vendors are always close, and this year is no exception. IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., which lost the top spot in 2007, regained the lead this year after beating out rivals Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., and Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., in partnership and channel support.

While ARC scores in other product categories often vary widely between the top and bottom performers, scores for IBM, Oracle and Microsoft have been close for years in Data and Information Management Software. This year was no different with IBM's overall ARC score of 65 barely edging out the score of 62 channel partners gave to both Oracle and Microsoft.

Last year, Oracle beat its database competitors with a score of 67 with Microsoft and IBM scoring 65 and 63, respectively, illustrating how a few points gained or lost can make a difference.

"This is going to be a competitive market forever," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of the IBM Software Group, whose products include the flagship DB2 database.

As has been true for several years, Oracle outscored IBM and Microsoft in product innovation, winning top marks for product quality and reliability, richness of product features/functionality and technical innovation. This race is won or lost on scores for partnership and channel support. And it's there that IBM excelled this year. IBM took top scores in every support criteria, including presales and postsales support and training, and top marks in the majority of partnership criteria, including communication with channel partners and managing channel conflict.

"If I ever need anything from the [IBM] channel group, [I make] one phone call and I can get the help I need," said Nagesh Kanumury, director of the master data management practice at Perficient Inc., an Austin, Texas-based information technology consulting company that ranked No. 36 on this year's CRN Fast Growth 100 list. Kanumury especially praised IBM's presales and marketing support, lead-generation efforts and PartnerWorld portal.
Opportunities to shadow IBM sales representatives also help generate business for Perficient, he said. Any complaints? Training, while effective, can be "pretty expensive," he said.

IBM's total score of 65 is up two points from 2007. The company's biggest gains were in product innovation, where its overall score put it second in that subcategory this year, compared with third in 2007. Those scores may have gotten a boost from the DB2 9.5 "Viper 2" database the company debuted late last year. Acquisitions in the last year, such as Cognos Inc. and its business intelligence software have also helped fill out IBM's offerings.

IBM has launched a number of channel initiatives in recent years to improve its partnership programs. It has better aligned its product and channel management, speeding transfer of information about new products to channel operations and so improving presales and postsales support, said Rachael Rusting, director for channel marketing and go-to-market in data management.

IBM offers channel partners what it calls the IBM Value Package that, for a flat annual fee of $2,000, provides presales and postsales tech support, education reimbursements, marketing assistance and software licenses for development and product demonstrations. The information management software organization also provides demand generation plans and access to free telemarketing services, said Nancy Toda, director of channel and SMB marketing for information management.

The departure of channels chief Rauline Ochs may in part have caused Oracle's lower scores for partnership and support. Ochs was credited with making Oracle more channel-friendly.

Next: Display Technologies

Display Technologies

By Michele Masterson

For the sixth year in a row, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has snared the No.1 spot among display vendors this year; in the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey, scoring an overall 74 to edge out a one-point victory over NEC Display Solutions of America.

NEC took second place with an overall score of 73. ViewSonic, which was in second place in 2007, fell behind to third with 71 points, well ahead of Acer in last place with a total of 57 points.

Among the individual subcategory criteria, Samsung tied for first with NEC in richness of product features and functionality in the area of product innovation. In the support subcategory, it tied for second place with ViewSonic in quality of field management and marketing support. In the partnership subcategory, NEC also tied for second place with ViewSonic in the criteria of managing channel conflict and revenue and profit potential. However, the company won the top spot in all three subcategories—product innovation, support and partnership—despite NEC's 105 in product quality and reliability.

"Sweeping the Display Technologies category for the sixth straight year continues to showcase and validate Samsung's commitment to the channel," said Christopher Franey, vice president, marketing and commercial sales for Samsung ITD. "... This award is a testament to the level of quality and assurance Samsung delivers in our P3 and business strategy."

Part of those efforts included a revamped partner program Samsung introduced last year. The company said that the enhanced Power Partner Program (P3) channel partner program came about after a review of the former program and included feedback from Samsung's channel partners.

The P3 program is a multitiered program designed to make Samsung's partners more profitable by providing tools and resources to turn prospects into sales. The program has four levels: Essential, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each level earns the partner additional benefits, incentives and support. Platinum status is the highest level a partner can achieve and provides VIP benefits such as priority road map access, participation in Samsung's Reseller Council, premium pricing discounts and a VIP program that enables partners to receive rebates on displays and printers after achieving a predetermined revenue target.

"Samsung's partners are an integral part of our success and I have personally made it a top priority to listen closely and focus on their needs," Franey said.
Samsung rolled out several new products in 2008, such as the MX-series.

"The MX-series offers an installer the opportunity to provide customers high-quality displays with exceptional performance at an affordable price," Franey said.

The company acknowledges that its products are priced higher than others in the display category, and specifically addresses the issue with the MX-series.

"Samsung recognizes the price-apprehension of entering this market and the need to deliver product that has the critical combination of value and performance," Franey said. "The MX-series delivers on both."

As an incentive in selling this product, Samsung Power Partners receive special promotions, lead referrals, training and technical support, as well as collateral and marketing materials.

VARs said that despite high price tags, Samsung's offerings are well worth the money.

Michael Milligan, purchasing administrator at Computer Systems Plus, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based solution provider, said that he receives positive feedback about Samsung products, and has never heard any complaints.

However, purchasing decisions are predicated on company budgets and corresponding price points. If budgets are tight, Milligan said that customers gravitate toward Acer products.

"It depends on what customers are looking for," he said. "The majority of time, money is an issue. "But if they're going for quality, then Samsung is the way to go."

Next: Middleware

Middleware

By Rick Whiting

Middleware isn't as visible as, say, a server or a printer. But if it fails, you can be sure a business will have a whole lot of unhappy people on its hands.

That's why middleware has become an increasingly critical component in many computing environments—and why it's becoming an increasingly important bit of technology for solution providers. This year, for the first time, the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey has included a Middleware category. And channel partners gave almost equal bottom-line scores to the three major middleware suppliers: IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp., which scratched out a narrow victory with an overall score of 68.

"We've been putting a big emphasis on our Fusion Middleware with our partners," said John Gray, group vice president for technology North American alliances and channels at Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle.

Many of Oracle's channel partners work with the company's flagship database. "But we want to be moving our partners up the technology stack," he said, citing content management and identity management software as two examples. There are more opportunities for partners to build complete solutions by adding middleware to their technology offerings, Gray said, and more opportunities to develop value-added services around those technologies.

Certainly, channel partners think highly of Oracle's middleware technology. While the overall ARC scores for IBM, Microsoft and Oracle were close, Oracle took top scores for most product innovation criteria, including technical innovation, product compatibility and ease of integration, marketability and services opportunity. Oracle's acquisition of middleware vendor BEA Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., in April for $6.7 billion certainly didn't hurt the perception that it has become the middleware powerhouse.

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., edged Oracle out in richness of product features/functionality and the two tied on product quality and reliability. Microsoft, in contrast, came in third on every product innovation score except marketability; there the Redmond, Wash.-based company placed second.

Bluenog, a Piscataway, N.J.-based solution provider that was a BEA channel partner, has joined the Oracle PartnerNetwork and now works with all of Oracle's Fusion Middleware products, including its portal, SOA and BPEL (business process execution language) products.

"We feel the products are very reliable," said Scott Barnett, Bluenog co-founder and COO. "We're very pleased Oracle decided to keep a lot of the BEA technology in the Fusion Middleware line. That was a smart decision. We made the strategic decision to sign up as an Oracle VAR before the [BEA acquisition] was complete," Barnett said.

While it's taken a little while for Bluenog to adjust to Oracle's culture and business processes, he said it's been worth it. "Oracle has a higher-touch model in terms of staying closer to their partners than BEA did." One big difference: Oracle has many more channel managers and associated resources for channel partners than BEA did, he said.

While Oracle was the clear winner in middleware technology, things were more mixed in the scores channel partners gave the three vendors for channel support and partnership criteria. Oracle, in fact, scored lowest on presales support, partner portal and managing channel conflict, for example, but won top scores for quality of field management, revenue and profit potential, and return on investment. All told, Microsoft beat both IBM and Oracle by one point for all support criteria, while Microsoft and Oracle tied for best partnership scores with a 64, just one point ahead of IBM.

Oracle has been working to strengthen its middleware channel efforts. Eighteen months ago, it created a team of Fusion Middleware specialists within Oracle's partner program to assist channel partners, Gray said. And a program that links the company's sales and channel organizations is designed to identify partners with expertise needed to close deals and bring them into sales situations.

Next: Midrange Servers

Midrange Servers

By Steven Burke

Bolstered by high marks for revenue and profit potential and managing channel conflict, Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., walked away with the VAR Business Annual Report Card (ARC) award in the Midrange (high-end) Servers ($25,000 and above) category.

Overall, HP scored a 70, handily beating Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp., which scored a 67, and Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., both of which finished with a 63.

HP scored an 80 in revenue and profit potential compared with a 75 for IBM, a 69 for Dell and a 65 for Sun.

In the managing channel conflict area, HP scored a 67 compared with 62 for IBM, a 59 for Sun and a 53 for Dell.

Don Richie, CEO of Sequel Data Systems Inc., an HP enterprise partner based in Austin, Texas, said he gives HP a grade of "A" for revenue and profit potential. "We are still making record sales and profits [as an HP partner]," he said. "Our gross profit is within two points of where it was 10 years ago. A lot of it has to do with the HP [PartnerOne] program."

Sequel Data's sharp focus on services also has led to a significant improvement in the bottom line, Richie said. "We're wrapping services around everything," he said. HP scored a 68 in services opportunity on the ARC compared with a 65 for IBM, a 62 for Sun and a 61 for Dell.

Richie said that he is particularly pleased with HP's revenue and profit potential in the midst of the current economic downturn. Many vendors attempt to increase their own profits during such a downturn on the backs of their partners, Richie said. Not so with HP.

"HP has done a good job of minimizing any program cuts for partners and keeping partners whole," he said. "My feeling is that HP is doing a good job of keeping the value of the product and the technology up."

Richie also gave HP high marks for product quality and reliability. "Many of our sales come from the result of other manufacturers' product failures," he said. "We end up replacing those products with HP products. HP has a definite advantage in product quality. We sell a ton of [HP] servers and our failure rate is next to none." HP scored a 92 for product quality and reliability compared with an 89 for IBM, an 84 for Sun and an 82 for Dell.

One reason for HP's product quality and reliability strength, Richie said, is the company's rich engineering legacy and tremendous research and development investments.

As for managing channel conflict, Richie said HP has done "a great job of managing channel conflict with the exception of CDW. We see CDW doing more damage to our marketplace and our relationships than anything I have ever seen."

A CDW-HP alliance set to begin in September has raised concerns among a number of HP partners. According to a CDW Corp. memo obtained by Everything Channel, CDW and HP have reached agreement to co-fund 110 new HP-only salespeople inside the Vernon Hills, Ill.-based solution provider to target accounts with 499 or fewer employees. HP will supply CDW leads by comparing Short Hills, N.J.-based Dun and Bradstreet Corp.'s customer list against historical sales of HP products through HP direct, HP channel partners and CDW, according to the memo. The result will be more than 500,000 net new customers for CDW to target, the memo said.

All that said, Richie said his HP business was outstanding in 2007. As for 2008, he said it has been a tough year but he expects a good year for profits because of Sequel Data's ability to hold the line on costs. "Overall, I'm very happy with the way things are going."

Next: Network Security Appliances

Network Security Appliances

By Andrew Hickey

For the second consecutive year, Juniper Networks Inc. took top honors from solution providers for its network security appliances as part of our 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey. But this year, Juniper is sharing the spotlight with SonicWall Inc., which tied with Juniper for the coveted top spot.

The differences between the two powerhouse vendors, which both clocked an overall score of 75, are subtle. SonicWall took the top spot for product innovation, edging out Juniper when it comes down to product quality and reliability, richness of product features/functionality, technical innovation and compatibility and ease of integration. The pair tied for product marketability, and Juniper took the top spot for services opportunities around its network security appliances.

Juniper made its greatest strides in the partnership category, where it received first-place nods for its partner portal, communication and revenue and profit potential. Both Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendors shared the praise for their overall partner program and SonicWall was top dog for ROI and ease of doing business.

Juniper was also the runaway favorite for support, and did very well with its training and postsales support. Juniper and SonicWall jockeyed for supremacy for presales support. They lost marketing support to Cisco, who came in first in that criterion, and Trend Micro.

Joining Juniper and SonicWall to round out the top five vendors were Fortinet, with 74; Cisco Systems, with 73; Trend Micro, with 72; and Secure Computing, with 71. McAfee was not included in the final results because too few McAfee VARs responded to the survey.

Barry Moore, account executive with Graycon Group Ltd., a Calgary-based solution provider, said Juniper goes above and beyond to make it easy for Graycon to do business.

"They are very clear," he said. "They cut to the chase and they have a no BS approach. That makes our job easier."

Steve Pataky, Juniper's vice president of channel development and programs, said taking the top spot two years running is a sign that Juniper's channel program is realizing its full potential.

"It means we're able to sustain our vision in the channel," he said.

For network security appliances in particular, Pataky said Juniper has continued to refresh its product line to incorporate it into its high performance networking strategy. Refreshes, such as firewalls and its SSG line in late 2007 are starting to see uptake this year, helping propel Juniper to the top spot in the category.

SonicWall found product innovation was key to retaining channel partner confidence, said Marvin Blough, vice president of worldwide sales.

"We really excelled this year in product innovation," he said, noting that SonicWall has refreshed about 50 percent of its product line, with the remainder set for a refresh in the next three to six months.

Another factor leading to SonicWall's dominance, Blough said, is the vendor's opening of a partner excellence center in Tempe, Ariz. There, he said, SonicWall took all outsourced support and insourced it, while also moving the channel management sales team and marketing organization to Tempe.

SonicWall also used the feedback from last year's Annual Report Card to ensure it's a company that's easy to do business with.

Overall, Blough said SonicWall's partner program isn't much different than it was 10 years ago. The key is keeping it simple to understand and simple to administer. That, coupled with a string of acquisitions during the last 24 months, has put SonicWall on top of solutions providers' minds.

"We're creating opportunities for partners to sell additional products to not only their existing customers, but [also to] new customers," he said.

Next: Network Security Software

Network Security Software

By Stefanie Hoffman

Once again, Trend Micro Inc. took 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey honors in the category of Network Security Software, earning an overall score of 74.

"The whole company is extremely ecstatic," said Jean Lozano, director of North American channel marketing for Trend Micro, Cupertino, Calif. "This is really an honor. The recognition is based on the premise and innovation and support of our partnership."

Altogether, the Tokyo-based security company scored a total of 78 in the subcategory of product innovation, carried by a high score of 88 in product quality and an 80 in product compatibility and ease of integration.

Trend Micro channel execs attribute the ARC success to a variety of products, in particular its Worry Free line.

"The Worry Free line is easy to understand, not just for our channel partners but for our customers," said Lozano. "We made it very simple for them to access and sell and provide value proposition to our end customers."

Trend Micro partners agreed that Worry Free was the product line that likely carried the day for Trend Micro in numerous product categories, with its simplicity, ease of integration and compatibility with numerous platforms.

"It takes a lot of the confusion for the consumer away," said Rob Wagy, senior account executive for Rain Networks. "They've done some retooling and made it a much better product."

Lozano maintained that the ARC win was also due to its strong channel relations; however, despite some channel successes, two of the company's lowest scores came within the area of partnership—partners ranked the company with a 64 in the subcategory of partner portal and a 68 in solution provider program. Still, Trend Micro placed first in those subcategories.

Specifically, Wagy maintained that the portal navigation was a feature that could use improvement. "There's times when it's been good, there were times it felt convoluted," he said.

To address those problems, Lozano said that the company was implementing automation tools to help partners access information, along with beefed-up phone support that includes a click-to-chat feature.

"They're able to pick up the phone and speak with someone," said Lozano. "At the end of the day, we all want to speak with a live person."

Meanwhile, nearest ARC competitor Websense also fared well with a total score of 78 in product innovation, driven by a high score of 86 in the subcategory of product quality and innovation.

Security is definitely something that people are not skimping on right now, said Erin Malone, senior director of channel enablement for Websense. "That's a good thing. What matters more is that the bad guys are ahead of the good guys. This is a great opportunity to create demand for Websense."

Websense channel execs hailed the company's strong line of products in
its core competency of Web protection and data leakage prevention. Another reason for the company's ARC success was due to two Websense acquisitions—Surf Control and Port Authority—which enabled partners to broaden their portfolio of Web-based offerings, Malone said.

Websense's scores fell short, however, in some subcategories of support and partnership. The company received a 58 in marketing support and a 59 in partner portal. To address weaker areas, Malone said that the company was embarking on a series of rollouts for its lead distribution program and deal registration, as well as adopting a more user-friendly system.

Meanwhile, the company also has added on field marketing managers and revamped marketing programs, while creating preferred vendor and rewards programs.

"We anticipate that our scores will be higher next year," said Malone. "Our feedback so far has been very positive."

Next: Network Storage

Network Storage

By Joseph F.Kovar

Quick response to solution providers' needs is imperative to having a successful channel relationship—and that's not been lost on EMC Corp., winner of the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey for the Network Storage category.

Solution providers who participated in the survey not only gave Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC the top score in the product innovation, support, and partnership subcategories, but they also gave the vendor a clean sweep of all 18 criteria in the survey, making it one of only three companies to get the No. 1 spot in all 18 criteria and the only company to do so in two categories.

EMC beat its nearest competitor, Network Appliance Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., by a large margin, while third-place IBM Corp., White Plains, N.Y., fell well behind NetApp in the survey. Hitachi Data Systems, Santa Clara, Calif., was not represented in this category because of the lack of solution provider responses to the survey.

The fact that EMC did so well does not surprise Marc Franz, national sales director of EMC and VMware solutions at FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based solution provider that works with many of the networked storage vendors covered in the survey.

Technologically, EMC has done wonders with its Clariion platform, not only in terms of its traditional Clariion line of midrange arrays but also with a new platform that lets customers work with NAS and with Fibre Channel and iSCSI SAN at the same time, Franz said.

"Customers who have EMC shops want to stay that way," Franz said. "They are ordering the EMC NAS platform. It's very price competitive and easy to add on to existing storage."

And, contrary to popular belief, EMC is not an expensive product line, which helps the channel, Franz said.

"EMC has been very, very aggressive price-wise, making it a real mover for customers," he said.

On the channel side, EMC has inside sales reps who are beating the bushes in existing and new accounts and pairing the leads with solution providers, Franz said.

Gregg Ambulos, vice president of channel sales Americas for EMC, said the success that EMC has had over the past five to six years since he joined the company comes from listening to the channel.

"It's not waving a magic wand," Ambulos said. "Our partners know we listen to them. And we're able to demonstrate we're moving forward with them."

Having world-class products will not lead to success without a world-class channel to back them up, and that is the combination which EMC offers, Ambulos said.

EMC has also enhanced channel margins by pushing a dramatic increase in the number of certified partners, and the number of certifications each partner has, Ambulos said.

It also helps that EMC's sales leadership backs the company's channel efforts 100 percent, Ambulos said.

"We put rules in place," he said. "And our sales team knows that if anyone breaks the rules, there's consequences for the individual who breaks them."

NetApp is not satisfied with being No. 2 to archrival EMC in the network storage category, and its ranking does not reflect recent changes to its channel initiatives, said Debbie Medal, senior director of channel marketing at NetApp.

"The actions we take in the channel have results all the way through our company and to our partners," she said. "The timeline is a bit wacky. The time the ARC survey is being done is the time we are rolling out new programs that haven't been implemented yet."

Next: Enterprise Networking Infrastructure

Enterprise Networking Infrastructure

By Jennifer Hagendorf Follett

Product innovation gave Cisco Systems Inc. the edge over its competitors as it grabbed the Company of the Year crown for Enterprise Networking Infrastructure in the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey.

Cisco won first-place finishes in all product innovation and support criteria, and came out first in five out of seven partnership criteria. The networking powerhouse's strength in product innovation helped it carry the day.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., bested its rivals with an overall score of 77. Juniper Networks Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., placed second with a score of 74. Enterasys Networks Inc., Andover, Mass., finished third with a score of 70, followed by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. at 64 and Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent with a score of 62.

Juniper gave Cisco a run for its money in the partnership subcategory, tying with it for first place. Juniper placed second, just two points behind Cisco, in the support subcategory, but lost ground in product innovation, where Cisco posted a five-point victory.

Cisco's largest margin of victory came under product innovation for the marketability criterion, where it bested its closest rival, Juniper, by 10 points. Solution providers also gave Cisco a strong showing in other product criteria such as richness of product features and functionality, quality and reliability, and services opportunity.

"In the enterprise, we're seeing a reflection of how well Cisco's strategy to combine advanced technologies and core technologies is coming to market," said John Growdon, director of core and data center for worldwide channels at Cisco, referring to Cisco's integration of technologies, such as wireless, security and VoIP, into its networking products. "Security and unified communications are ones where we really see it coming together," Growdon said.

Recent Cisco product launches such as its enterprise edge Aggregation Services Router 1000 Series and its Nexus 5000 Series data center switch have been gaining steam in the channel, Growdon said.

Solution providers also lauded Cisco for strong support, including criteria such as postsales support and quality of field management.

"We've latched onto some of their vertical support programs, particularly health care," said Frank Kobuszewski, vice president of the technology solutions group at CXtec, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based solution provider.

CXtec has seen benefits from health care-related marketing support, co-branding and lead campaigns, Kobuszewski said.

The only two criteria for which Cisco didn't come in at the top spot were under the partnership subcategory for ROI, where it placed second, and ease of doing business, where it finished third. Juniper won the top spot in both criteria, with Enterasys landing in second for ease of doing business.

Juniper's network infrastructure lineup was recently reinvigorated by the launch of its first enterprise switch family.

"The switch has made a profound impact on the channel. It represents the bridge between those partners that felt like they could play in the security space but didn't have the competence to address the routing product," said Philip O'Reilly, senior vice president of U.S. sales at Juniper. "The thing about the switch is, good, bad or indifferent, it is the primary vector into most customer environments. It's the thing that's most common among all of our customers, so it gives us access we've frankly never had before."

Next: Notebooks and Mobile Computers

Notebooks & Mobile Computers

By Edward F. Moltzen

When it comes to notebooks, Toshiba America Inc. can often be thought of as producing "The Cal Ripken, Jr." of notebooks. In other words, the company, based in New York, has developed a reputation of building reliable, steady, stable mobile PCs that get the job done.

For those reasons, Toshiba is the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card Company of the Year for Notebooks and Mobile Computers with an overall score of 67. This category was especially competitive this year, too, with the segment up for grabs following a year that saw significant consolidation, newer and smaller form factors hitting the market, and a potential minefield as retail sales continued to grow—along with the potential of increased channel conflict.

Toshiba was a runaway winner when it came to the subcategories of support and partnership, where the company was ranked the best in its category for everything from presales support and training to managing channel conflict and delivering ROI. It only came in second (in a tie with Lenovo) to Panasonic in the postsales support criteria.

Solution providers gave Toshiba generally good grades for reliability—placing the company third in that segment of the Notebook and Mobile Computers category.
In fact, the vendor came in third in the product innovation subcategory, behind Panasonic (No. 1) and Lenovo (No. 2). Panasonic walloped the competition in the quality and reliability criteria, earning one of the highest marks in the survey overall: 105. Conversely, the lowest scores for quality were awarded across the board to Acer.

With among the broadest notebook lines in the industry, ranging from value Satellite Pro notebooks with AMD processors to the ultra thin Portege R500—which beat the highly publicized MacBook Air to market by about a year—Toshiba has managed to deliver a complex portfolio without the trappings of IT complexity. According to the data collected from VARs in this year's survey, Toshiba was ranked first, across the board, in every topic under the partnership subcategory. That included criteria such as partner portal, solution provider program, communication and keeping channel conflict at bay—and in a year when retail markets grew, that wasn't necessarily an easy task.

Its product line is nothing to sneeze at, either. For example, Toshiba's Portege M700 tablet notebook (priced at about $1,700) and its Portege R500 (priced closer to $3,000) offer higher-end notebooks at the upper end of the pricing and value scale; the company also thought it was important to offer its channel partners a choice of CPU—and therefore added an AMD-based Satellite Pro to what had previously been an all Intel-based lineup.

During interviews throughout the past year, Toshiba executives have made it clear that the company has emphasized innovation and continued close communication with VARs to deliver functions and features that VARs have said they and their customers needed—as opposed to systems with a lot of features that are unused. Toward that end, in the product innovation subcategory, Toshiba ranked first at providing services opportunities for resellers.

VARs placed a premium on differentiation, too, in this year's survey. The runner-up in this category was Panasonic, which makes the ruggedized and business rugged ToughBook line of notebook PCs—and which received among the highest marks in product innovation criteria this year. That happened in a year in which Panasonic expanded its product line from its traditionally higher-end, pricier lineup to a broader line card spanning both ends of the pricing and feature spectrum.

Next: SMB Networking Hardware

SMB Networking Hardware

By Brian Kraemer

Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., earned an overall score of 78 in the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey in the SMB Networking Hardware category. The progress the company made during the past 12 months placed it ahead of some tough competition, including Adtran and Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., which finished second and third, respectively. According to the channel partners surveyed, the results showed that Cisco's channel commitment proved the company is always working to improve its products, support for partners and channel partner programs.

In each subcategory, Cisco ranked either first or second in the final standings. Forrest May, sales manager for Cordova, Tenn.-based Critical Edge Tech LLC, is surprised only by the fact that more channel partners don't turn to Cisco for SMB networking hardware. "SMB partners don't seem to know Cisco," May said. "For the most part, Cisco partners aren't focused on the SMB market, because it isn't where Cisco cut its teeth."

But that doesn't mean that Cisco isn't creating innovative products that are aimed at the small- to midsize businesses. In fact, May believes that some products are ready-made for smaller customers.

"I sold a customer a product that one colleague said looked like a medium-size pizza box," May said. "It becomes the firewall, the VPN connection, phone system auto attendant, as well as a switch—all in one device."

Cisco is happy to continue offering fresh products but is also looking to augment its best-in-class products with improved benefits for its partners. The unified communications offering is closely tied to Cisco's success in the product innovation subcategory. The areas of marketability and services opportunity are an intrinsic part of the company's UC offering.

"Partners are offering a services-centric proposition to a customer," said Andrew Sage, Cisco vice president of worldwide small business sales. "The UC solution is a true system and solves the communication and collaboration problem that faces many customers. Our partners are able to deliver a rich service offering to customers that includes traditional design and implementation services. This means there is a fair amount of up-front value service providers can offer."

In the support subcategory, the scores indicate that vendors offer great postsales support but lack presales involvement. May, however, believes the lack of presales support originates with channel partners and not vendors.

"We don't want [vendors] involved ... before the sale is made unless we need it," May said. "I want Cisco to be available on an on-demand basis."

Vendors recognize that channel partners believe presales support is lacking and are making moves to increase their available resources.

Kevin Kabat, HP ProCurve Americas channel sales and marketing director, said vendors should offer presales support without being overly involved.

"We give our partners a choice in how to get that support, either online or to call in," Kabat said. "For the partner that needs it, we offer complete design assistance at no charge."

That method enables HP's partners to take the design from the vendor and present it to a potential customer. Once the design has arrived from HP, the partner can label and market it as its own.

"The partner now has the choice to take the design, deliver it ... with own logo to customer ... at whatever price," Kabat said.

As vendors recognize how fast the SMB networking infrastructure market is growing, channel partners will continue to carve out large chunks of business for themselves and the companies they work with. By providing best-in-class hardware and offering continual support, vendors keep their partners happy.

"We're not supporting an enterprise," May said. "A lot of times the enterprise dogs don't want these small accounts, so we're down here by ourselves trying to do a good job."

Next: Storage Management Software

Storage Management Software

By Joseph F. Kovar

EMC over the past few years has set a couple of lofty goals for itself: to be one of the leading storage software vendors, and to be known as a channel-friendly vendor partner.

If the results of the latest 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey are any indication, EMC Corp., with an overall score of 87, has succeeded on both accounts thanks to solution providers' giving the vendor top marks across the board.

Solution providers gave EMC, Hopkinton, Mass., the highest mark in all 18 criteria in the survey, and as a result, the vendor dominated the Storage Management Software category, beating second-place finishers Hewlett Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., and IBM Corp., White Plains, N.Y., by nearly 20 points, one of the highest winning margins in the entire survey.

Pete Koliopoulos, EMC's vice president of global channel marketing, said his company has in the last 18 months been focusing on the ease of doing business and on profitability for solution providers, resulting in innovative products and services for the channel.

On the services side, EMC has recently changed its compensation plans to make it easier for partners to implement the vendor's services, shortened the time needed to get certified to implement those services, and provided them with presales and postsales support, Koliopoulos said.

EMC has also enhanced its deal registration program to improve how partners get paid, and added other ways to improve the ease of doing business with the vendor, he said. "So, while we have great products, it's all the things we do around them, including decreasing direct sales friction, that help make it easier for partners to do business with us," he said.

EMC last year also introduced a new specialization program to help solution providers focus on implementing solutions instead of selling products. Koliopoulos said EMC already has three specializations in place and may add another three in January, with more to follow.

EMC has also continued to innovate on the product side, with a special focus on adding server virtualization technology to such products as Replication Manager or its Avamar deduplication software, Koliopoulos said. "When you look at dedupe, at how to do it across multiple virtual machines, we understand how to do it," he said.

Acquisitions have also been important to EMC to fill out its product portfolio, Koliopoulos said. "When looking at how to establish an information infrastructure, we look at what we can buy and what we can develop to build ourselves," he said. "Acquisitions are equally important as our own development. A lot of our software comes from acquisitions."

Keith Norbie, director of the storage division of Nexus Information Systems, a Plymouth, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner, said the vendor has made it easier to create a software business than any other vendor.

"Not only does EMC offer the best channel program, they also provide the marketing dollars to jump-start the business," Norbie said. "And they provide the tools we need to create a phenomenal business for their software and compete against other vendors who help their partners see a product without thinking about the entire solution."

Symantec, which had the poorest performance in the Storage Management Software category, knows there are a lot of issues where the company needs to catch up to the leaders, said Julie Parrish, former vice president of Symantec's global channel office.

"The good news is, we're not surprised by the results," Parrish said.

Symantec has in the last few months put together a high-level task force headed by COO Enrique Salem that meets every two weeks to look at the company's channel business and make meaningful changes, Parrish said.

A lot of these processes have only been in the works for the past six to eight months. "Partners will want to test us to see if the next few products come out meeting their standards for quality and tech support," Parrish said.

Next: Systems and Network Management Software

Systems & Network Management Software

By Rick Whiting

The first IT vendor that comes to mind when you think of systems and network management software is probably not Novell. So it's a bit of a surprise that Novell, up against such industry heavyweights as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. took top scores this year in Systems and Network Management Software, the first time that technology has been a category in the VARBusiness Annual Report Card.

Novell Inc., Waltham, Mass., and its ZENworks systems management, configuration management and end-point security management software was ranked first by channel partners in the subcategories of product innovation, support and partnership, garnering a total score of 66. HP, Palo Alto, Calif., was close behind with a score of 64 while Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft was a relatively distant third with a score of 57.

Novell's win doesn't surprise Richard Whitehead, Novell director of product marketing for systems and resource management.

"The No. 1 reason is because I feel we address customer problems very easily and very quickly," he said.

Novell's score of 75 for product innovation, including quality and reliability, and richness of product features/functionality, easily beat out HP's 71 and Microsoft's 63. Whitehead offered an explanation as to why.

Functionality? "We're constantly monitoring the market [to] stay ahead of it," he said. Quality and reliability? "We leverage open-source [technology] wherever we can and make it better," he said, adding that Novell also uses agile programming techniques when building its products. Compatibility and ease of integration? The company employs a "super lab" in Provo, Utah, where partners and customers see how Novell products work in large-scale IT environments with technology from multiple vendors.

Novacoast Inc., a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based solution provider, has been a Novell partner for 11 years. "One simple point: reliable products," said CEO Paul Anderson, when asked the reason for his long-time loyalty to Novell. "You'd be surprised how many vendors' products out there don't work or take so much effort to make them work that it's almost impossible to be successful as a professional service supplier." Novell, he said, has been "in that sweet spot for many years," developing products that work and yet offer enough opportunity for resellers.

But Whitehead is quick to note that innovation isn't everything. "It's one thing to have an innovative product," he said. "Innovation alone doesn't always win. It's all the things that go with innovation." Those things include ease of implementation, solving customers' problems and ease of doing business with the company. And Whitehead said Novell's channel partners are key to that last item.

Novell either scored No. 1 or tied with HP for the top spot in nearly every support and partnership criteria, coming in second only in marketing support and ease of doing business.

Novell has been putting more emphasis on channel sales in recent years, Anderson said. (More than half of all ZENworks sales go through channel partners, according to Whitehead.) "They've always been great on support," the Novacoast CEO said, noting that Novell does especially well with postsales support.

Novell's win is all the more remarkable considering the changes in its channel management in the last year. In November, the company's channel executive ranks underwent major changes, including the departures of Steve Erdman, vice president and general manager of channels and alliances, and James Simzer, director of North America partner sales. Earlier this month, the company promoted Javier Colado, previously manager of Novell's EMEA operations, as its new channel chief.

Whitehead's philosophy: "We're not managing machines. What we're trying to do is make users more productive."

Next: VoIP

VoIP

By Andrew R. Hickey

Cisco Systems Inc. and VoIP go together like chocolate and peanut butter, or at least solution providers who took the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey say so. Cisco continued its dominance in the VoIP category by again snagging the coveted top spot, a position Cisco has held since it was first included four years ago.

Cisco swept the field, earning an overall score of 76, a massive seven points higher than the closest competition, Fountain Valley, Calif.-based D-Link Corp., which placed second with a score of 69. Rounding out the field were Alcatel-Lucent, Paris, 65; and Linksys, a Cisco-owned company, with 61. Cisco's score also put it a stellar eight points above the overall average score of 68.

When it comes to product innovation, support and partnership, Cisco was the runaway favorite, earning first-place nods under each subcategory and criteria, except for product compatibility and ease of integration, where it was ranked No. 2 behind D-Link.

Garth Brown, president and COO of Semaphore Corp., a Seattle-based solution provider, said Cisco's VoIP sweep is a testament to its ability to evolve its product offerings and programs.

"Cisco has continually evolved, iterated and invested in infrastructure and support and is always pushing the envelope on innovation," he said. "Over the years, it's gotten to be a better environment to work in with them."

Cisco, Brown said, puts in time and effort into understanding profitability models. And Cisco's ability to invest in new technologies and re-evaluate its strategies as it grows has helped move it to the forefront of VoIP in solution providers' eyes, he said. Programs around VoIP, which weren't always the strongest, have been fortified and strengthened, earning partner confidence, Brown said.

"They reached a point where they understood they had to adapt to a partner model to be successful," he said.

Brown also said Cisco's stratification of its program, and its ability to let partners compete to find and acquire new business, has made him appreciate the partnership.

"If we invest in programs, tools and incentives, we can find new business and be competitive," he said. "We're a smaller organization focusing specifically on high-touch, advanced technologies."

Cisco's massive breadth, spanning voice, video and data, also makes it easier for solution providers, such as Semaphore, to offer a more rounded solution. In addition, being able to offer an entire networking infrastructure as opposed to parts and pieces, gives customers one "throat to choke."

"They have such a comprehensive product set, we can go to the table with everything and anything," Brown said.

Richard McLeod, Cisco's senior director for collaboration solutions, worldwide channels, said the high praise from solution providers stems not just from product superiority, but also from targeting partner needs.

"It's continuing what we've always done," he said, adding that Cisco has "a real keen focus of listening to partners and understanding their requirements."

McLeod said Cisco has remained steadfast about boosting partner profitability, strengthening its specializations and partner enablement.

"We're very strong believers of if you use the solution, you can know it and you can sell it," he said. "And we try to design into all of our solutions the ability to offer professional services."

McLeod said Cisco solutions are well-respected, especially in the VoIP arena. And as the VoIP market evolves into unified communications, Cisco is working diligently to get partners on board by offering rewards, training programs and other incentives as they work their way up the stack to offer unified communications applications.

D-Link, which nabbed the No. 2 spot, credited its success on its VoIP partnership with Microsoft Corp. and its ability to offer VoIP-centric products solely through the channel, in contrast to most of its competition.

Next: Volume Mainstream Business Servers

Volume Mainstream Business Servers

By Craig Zarley

Hewlett-Packard Co. and its workhorse servers held off IBM Corp. in a close race to capture the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card Company of the Year in the Volume Mainstream Business Servers category.

HP, Palo Alto, Calif., garnered an overall score of 67, edging IBM, Armonk, N.Y., by a single point to win the category. IBM placed second. The product innovation subcategory proved integral to HP. VARs rated HP tops in quality and reliability, richness of product features/functionality, technical innovation, compatibility and ease of integration, and marketability, giving the vendor a four-point spread over IBM, which finished second in the product innovation subcategory.

"I hope this proves that we have a quality, reliable product," said Adrian Jones, HP's vice president and general manager, Solution Partners Organization Americas. "The reliability is what solution providers and end-user customers are looking for. We've also proven that partners can make pretty good money selling HP servers. Innovation, technology and quality are key in this market and I think we have the right tools to help enable partners to sell the product."

Jones noted that HP is moving forward with its strategy to "blade everything," including servers as well as storage and PCs. "Our server business is only going to get stronger," he said. "Ann Livermore [head of HP's Technology Solutions Group] wants to go from shipping a server every 12 seconds to shipping one every nine seconds. We have to figure out how to make that happen, but we are on the right track."

While HP won the overall category award, IBM bested HP in the support subcategory with a score of 61, compared to HP's 58. One weak spot for HP and a strong point for IBM was in quality of field management. IBM scored highest in that area with a score of 60, compared to HP's fourth-place finish with a mark of 52.

Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a solution provider focused on the SMB market in Green Bay, Wis., sells only HP servers to his customers. "Servers are the most solid part of HP's line right now," Chernick said. "They just run and run and run. They are priced right, you can get the product, and HP servers are just the best."

Chernick said he used to sell IBM servers as well, but stopped selling IBM about two years ago because the servers were priced too high and the vendors' field support at the time was inadequate.

In the ARC survey, solution providers gave HP a big advantage in the partnership subcategory criteria of return on investment, where the company achieved a score of 71 compared with runner-up IBM, which got a score of 65. HP also scored significantly higher than IBM in the product innovation criteria of marketability with a score of 70 compared with 66 for IBM.

Chernick said that HP's dominance in the server market coupled with its broad technology portfolio plays into his hands.

He noted that in his market, HP ProLiants are the dominant server, which makes it easier for him to start a conversation around HP with new customers. Many customers have had a good experience with HP already and they're eager to hear about other products, he said.

"We'll walk into a lot of accounts for the first time and they might say they have HP servers and Dell desktops," Chernick said.

"That gives me the 'in' because I'll say, 'We love their servers. We love their storage. We love their laptops. Can we talk to you?'"

Next: Wireless Infrastructure

Wireless Infrastructure

By Jennifer Hagendorf Follett

Solution providers participating in the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey named Cisco Systems Inc. as the company of the year in the Wireless Infrastructure category, awarding it a decisive victory over its competitors.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., handily beat out its rivals, garnering a clean sweep of all 18 product innovation, support and partnership criteria.

Cisco earned top marks across the board with an overall score of 75. The race for runner-up was tight, as only three points separated the second-place finisher from the fifth-place finisher. D-Link Systems Inc., Fountain Valley, Calif., grabbed the No. 2 overall spot with a score of 67, followed by San Jose, Calif.-based Netgear with 66, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. at 65 and Cisco's Linksys division with 64.

D-Link placed second in the product innovation subcategory, tied for second with Netgear and HP in the support subcategory and tied for second with Netgear in the partnership subcategory.

Cisco's most decisive victory came in the support subcategory, where its overall score bested its closest rivals by 10 points. Cisco boasted double-digit margins of victory in several criteria under the support subcategory, including quality of field management, training and marketing support.

"We have a CAM [Channel Account Manager] that is phenomenal, and if we have questions on new programs coming out, certifications, packages or new features, she's just fantastic," said Nate Freeman, president of Network People Inc., a Largo, Fla.-based Cisco partner.

Cisco also distinguished itself with a strong showing in the product innovation subcategory, particularly in criteria such as services opportunity and technical innovation.

The latter has been a strong focus for Cisco's WLAN business during the past year, said Alex Thurber, senior director of technical go-to-market for worldwide channels at Cisco.

"We brought the first practical enterprise 802.11n access point into the field and have helped partners ramp up," Thurber said, noting that uptake of its wireless-N line portfolio has been faster than anticipated, putting the company roughly a year ahead of its expectations.

In recent months, Cisco also launched Cisco Motion, a wireless initiative aimed at bringing advanced mobility solutions to customers, as well as a companion channel program dubbed Partner Motion, which brings sales tools and financial rewards to partners that migrate customers to Cisco's latest wireless technologies, including 802.11n.

Gary Berzack, CTO of eTribeca LLC, a New York-based solution provider, said Cisco's rollout of a dual-band 802.11n access point, which offers a 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz radio, sets Cisco's wireless portfolio apart from its rivals. Berzack also lauded Cisco for the VoIP-minded capabilities it has built into its wireless platform to empower and enable Voice-over-Wi-Fi.

"A lot of [competitive products] just don't have the right horsepower to handle 12 to 20 simultaneous voice calls like Cisco does," Berzack said.

For its part, HP's ProCurve Networking is seeing a tremendous amount of interest in its wireless portfolio, said Kevin Kabat, ProCurve's Americas channel sales and marketing director.

"We've taken a very strategic focus in wireless, not just in the ability to do wireless but to do it with confidence in security of it," Kabat said.

Going forward, HP's planned acquisition of wireless vendor Colubris will help strengthen ProCurve's WLAN lineup, he said.

"It's going to jump us considerably ahead in wireless technology, bring innovative wireless technology to the market and into our product portfolio," Kabat said.

Brian Kraemer contributed to this story.

Next: Workgroup Color Printers

Workgroup Color Printers

By Michele Masterson

Buoyed by excellent scores in quality and reliability, Xerox Corp. has taken the No. 1 slot overall in the Workgroup Color Printers category of the 2008 VARBusiness Annual Report Card survey for the second year in a row.

"This is really gratifying and it's not something we take for granted," said Gary Gilliam, vice president of channel operations for Xerox North America, which earned an overall score of 73.

Earlier this year, Xerox said it was intent on accelerating the adoption of color printing in office environments through new and improved technologies. To that end, the company's research in color printing represents about 50 percent of the $1.5 billion Xerox and its partner Fuji Xerox invest each year in research and development.

That investment seems to be paying off for Xerox resellers. The Norwalk, Conn.-based company ranked highest with a score of 81 in the product innovation subcategory, which includes quality and reliability, richness of product features/functionality and technical innovation.

"The quality of Xerox printers has always been outstanding," said Vincent DiSpigno, co-owner of Webistix, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider. "We're an Apple specialist; our customers are very demanding when it comes to color, so Xerox is a good fit."

Xerox also took top honors in the marketability criteria.

DiSpigno said that Xerox's equipment is not only a known name, but its high quality means there's no hard sells.

"Since we have so many satisfied Xerox customers, it's easy to sell additional printers to them rather than have to go out and get new customers," he said.
As for the color printer market in general, Anne Mulcahy, Xerox chairman and CEO, believes that color printing adoption is accelerating.

In the first half of 2008, more than $25 billion color pages have been printed on Xerox systems, putting the company on pace for $50 billion color pages in 2008, a 25 percent increase from last year, according to Mulcahy. Color now represents half of Xerox's total equipment sales and 40 percent of total revenue, she said.

Xerox also scored as tops in the area of technical innovation.

As of the second quarter of 2008, the company launched 23 products, which included a refreshed product line and expanded offerings for the SMB marketplace. Those products include the Xerox 700 entry production color system and the DocuColor 5000 AP for midmarket production color printing.

In February, Xerox launched its lowest price color laser printer yet, the Phaser 6125, which retails for $349 and up. The product has been received well by partners, according to Gilliam.

"With color printers there is a unique problem in adoption," he said. "There's a preconceived idea that color is a lot more expensive than mono, and that's a barrier we've worked hard to change."

In terms of support for partners, Xerox generally scored high, but received lower ratings in the partnership subcategory overall, particularly in the revenue and profit potential area.

There are various reseller programs, including deal registration and postsales and presales support, Gilliam said.

DiSpigno, for one, is sold. "I think they have the best program out in the market, and it encompasses everything," he said. "Their field support and inside support are great."

Gilliam said Xerox would like to wrest the market leader position in the color printer category from Hewlett-Packard. To that end, he said, Xerox is committed to growing the channel. The company came in second to Lexmark in managing channel conflict. Conversely, HP came in last place in every criteria.

Channel changes are in the offing for Xerox with its announcement in mid-September that its North American operations will now be organized through two groups.