Steve Kincade, vice president and general manager at Research In Motion, the maker of the Blackberry PDA, couldn't help but laugh at his own joke.
"How much margin does a solution provider make off of a PC?" he asked Wednesday from the RIM booth at Comdex Chicago. "Yeah, nothing. They probably have to pay a carrier fee."
Kincade has the right to laugh at the low to non-existent margins on most hardware. Solution providers, at least the handful that will be accepted into RIM Blackberry's new partner program, might also join in on the laughter. Kincade said he guarantees between $100 to $150 profit on each Blackberry sold.
"And that doesn't include all the other revenue streams, like software, the Blackberry Enterprise Server, additional hardware, maintenance, memory, help desk, training and other services," Kincade said. "What integrators can make on a solution is huge. The market will continue to feed itself."
RIM's partner program surrounds the new Blackberry 5810, a customizable PDA that combines e-mail, a phone and contact management applications. RIM will begin the new program with a premier level, which will target about 35 resellers, including the six it already works with.
"We are only looking for the best of the best," Kincade said. "We're looking for expertise, not overdistribution. They must really want to own the customer relationship and commit themselves to providing value for as long as they service the customer."
The program, launched this week, includes a partner site with online education and support, and 25 field sales support technicians to help solution providers with application development and solution implementation. For their part, solution providers must complete 80 hours of training and pass the certification test, and hire or train at least one technician to oversee the Blackberry relationship and accounts.
What RIM is not asking for is volume sales. In today's market, where tight corporate budgets and long project cycles are the norm, Kincade said it is unfair to put volume pressure on solution providers. RIM would rather solution providers provide solid applications of high value that clients can't help but ask for more Blackberry products, Kincade said. In other words, quality solutions will spur volume.
Like many of the vendors exhibiting here, Kincade is not necessarily looking for large solution providers. Small, innovative solution providers working with large, medium and even small customers are fine, he said.
"The technology is open so super regionals can adapt it to their expertise," he said. "They can become experts in their field and completely block out the competition."