Printing powerhouse Hewlett-Packard trounced the competition in the multifunction printer category, coming in more than 5 points ahead of second-place Lexmark International.
HP's overall Channel Champions rating in the multifunction printer category was 71.3, compared with Lexmark's tally of 65.7. Ricoh, Xerox and Canon followed.
What made HP stand out with partners in the multifunction printer space?
Notably, the quality of its products. HP led in product quality and reliability, coming in at 104.5 compared with Canon's 95.8 second-place score. Lexmark was fourth in this area but had a stronger showing than Ricoh, Xerox and Canon when it came to financial criteria.
Some customers have been using the same HP printer for eight to 10 years, which helps the company's reputation in multifunction devices, said Bob Landman, general manager of Compuwave, a Ventura, Calif.-based solution provider.
"These things just go on forever. Of course, it doesn't make me happy because I want to sell new ones. In all fairness, HP makes a great printer. They're always ahead of the game," Landman said. "We sell a lot of brands of printers and definitely HP is our No. 1 brand. Their multifunction printers are excellent. We just bought one ourselves."
HP was the top scorer in the financial categories, and it also was ahead in channel program support and satisfaction with 72.2 points, leading the pack in every criterion including pre- and post-sales support, technical education resources and efforts to manage channel conflict.
"Working with HP is head and shoulders above working with any other OEM in the marketplace," said Jim Fall, vice president of strategic planning at HP solution provider Cannon IV, Indianapolis.
"That's got a lot of value to us," Fall added. "Certainly HP has their problems like anybody else, but what we see is a concerted effort by HP to continuously improve the programs, the products and how they work with the reseller channel."
Next: Network Color Laser Printers
NETWORK COLOR LASER PRINTERS
It should be little surprise to solution providers that Hewlett-Packard has done it again.
In a repeat performance, HP claimed the 2007 CRN Channel Champions crown for network color laser printers, posting a respectable lead over second-place finisher Xerox across the board. HP shone in product quality and reliability, where it earned a 106.2-point score, well ahead of Xerox's 99.2 and third-place Lexmark International's 93.5.
"I think they have some very strong price points and are aware of their competition. I think they're in a league of their own," said Sam Haffar, president and co-CEO of Houston-based HP solution provider Computex.
HP's reputation for solid products that "you put in place and never have to look back" keeps it on top with both solution providers and customers, Haffar said. In addition, HP has recently upped its market development fund contributions to its resellers, he said, strengthening what was already a strong partner program.
"It is rewarding to sell HP printers. You make margin on the front end, and you can make decent margin on the supply business," he said. "HP has one of the strongest partner programs across the board, and printing is no exception."
Overall, however, HP's lead in program and support satisfaction was slim. For this set of subcriteria, it posted 68.9 points, just narrowly beating out Xerox's 68.3 point score. Xerox beat out HP when ranked on consistency of channel program over time and efforts to manage channel conflict, a category that was led by Oki Data.
"It's been hard to make [network laser printers] a competitive product and make margin on HP, so resellers have looked to other vendors to sort of fill that gap. I think that's one reason why companies like Xerox, Ricoh and Lexmark have been gaining some ground," said Brian Deeley, general manager of Graymar Business Solutions, Timonium, Md.
Deeley went on to praise HP, though: "I think HP's done a great job in the past year and a half trying to re-engage the channel," he said. "They've always had excellent printers. That's why they control [so much] of the market."
Next: Flat Panel Displays
FLAT PANEL DISPLAYS
ViewSonic emerged victorious in the hotly contested race for the 2007 CRN Channel Champions title in flat-panel displays.
ViewSonic, which earned a score of 67.9, substantially bettered its performance over last year. NEC was second with 66.9, and Samsung was next with 66.6. They were followed by Acer with 65.1 and LG Electronics with 63.3.
Contributing to ViewSonic's win was its approach to product improvement, which involves eliciting feedback from solution providers and their customers regarding industry trends and what features they want in a display, said T.K. Baker, marketing manager at Unistar-Sparco Computers, Millington, Tenn.
"One of the things that ViewSonic has always done and continues to do is put out the best product at the most cost-effective price," Baker said. "From a technical aspect, their displays are just as good as, if not better than, other manufacturers."
In the financial criteria category, some ViewSonic partners say it's the service and installation that bring in the big bucks in the competitive display category.
"We have very low margins on the product side. The margin is on the installation side," said Russ Stover, CEO of Digitainment, San Marcos, Calif., a discount home theater installer and integrator. "My margin might run 10 percent on the equipment and 80 percent on the labor side."
For program and channel support results, which included criteria such as pre- and post-sales support, channel program consistency and technical education, ViewSonic ran neck-and-neck with NEC. NEC's prices may not always be lower, but the availability, reliability and support from the company has one solution provider sold.
"I see my NEC rep and channel people every week. That's the driving factor in why we do so well with them," said John DeRocker, senior vice president of sales at Plymouth, Minn.-based Nexus Information Systems. "It's the value-add that NEC brings to the table—combating the OEMs, such as an HP- or IBM-branded display," he said.
Next: UPS/Power Management
Given the critical nature of business continuity, it makes a whole lot of sense that product quality and reliability is the most highly weighted criterion for UPS/Data Center Power Management—and that this is the strongest suit for APC, which was the 2007 CRN Channel Champion for this product category.
APC's rating of 72.1 was 7.3 points ahead of second-place Tripp Lite, which had an overall rating of 64.8. Liebert earned a 63.9, while Belkin rounded out the category with 61.4.
While APC claimed the victory for all three criteria subcategories, it especially shone in the technical criteria, where it had an almost 10-point lead. Its biggest leads were in serviceability (9.3 points) and product quality and reliability (10.3 points).
"We've had very little issue with DOAs or with the units not performing as advertised," said Jason Black, director of data center solutions at MSI Systems Integrators, Omaha, Neb. "They've designed technology that is modular and scalable and that can be worked on by your typical IT professional."
Terry Cantrell, vice president of North Star Technical Services, a power technology specialist in Hollywood, Fla., said while no vendor in this category is perfect, APC's innovation in modularity and scalability leads the rest. "Overall, compared to anyone else, APC absolutely is better than anyone else here," he said.
Where APC falls down, Cantrell said, is in its services policies and in its billing practices: "APC has a preventive maintenance backlog that would floor you."
Still, Cantrell and Black were both pleased with their ability to build a recurring services business around the APC power management technology. Black cites a 30 percent to 40 percent services attach rate, compared with between 8 percent and 10 percent for other MSI technology practices.
Services attach rate was actually the one criterion in the survey where APC did not earn the highest satisfaction rating. This honor went to Belkin (37.4), followed by Tripp Lite (36.6) and Liebert, which tied APC in this area (36.1).
Robert McKernan, vice president of channels and alliances at APC, said improving partners' services opportunity, notably around the topic of managed services, is one area of program evolution he's emphasizing in the upcoming year. "We are in the process of better developing that piece," he said.