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Advice to Dell VARs: put on your seatbelt things are about to get bumpy. That's what industry analysts are advising Dell channel partners as the buyout vote that will determine the company's future approaches.
Caught in the crossfire are Dell channel partners, which nearly unanimously are rooting for Michael Dell to emerge victorious from next week's vote. Partners are in line with CEO Dell's goal of taking his company private and focusing on growth instead of shareholders value -- an Icahn priority.
"There are going to be some significant downstream effects on [Dell] partners no matter what happens with the vote," said IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete. He said VARs should "pay attention to what happens in the next two weeks, because no matter what Dell is going to be a very different company in six months," he said.
Meanwhile, Dell is stuck in shareholder-vote limbo and is putting on the best face it can to partners. "During the pendency of the transaction, we maintain an unwavering focus on our customers and our commitment to provide you, our channel partners, with a superior experience and the products and solutions to drive your business," wrote Dell's Greg Davis, vice president and general manager of Dell's global commercial channels, in an email sent to partners Wednesday.
Dell VAR partners say they have seen that focus first-hand. "From my perspective, Dell hasn't missed a beat despite all its distractions," said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Dell partner.
Nevertheless, analysts say Dell's future is far from settled, and no matter the vote's outcome, the company's future is a moving target.
Here is a round-robin of analyst opinions about Dell.
"Dell is going to be hitting some very bumpy air no matter what," IDC's Del Prete said.
"VARs need to have a plan 'B,'" said IDC's Crawford. "If customers are asking a lot about Dell, you need to have an alternative enterprise hardware and software plan to start talking about."
Under one scenario, Del Prete said, if Dell and Silver Lake win the shareholder vote, channel partners are going to see a new reinvigorate Michael Dell willing to make bold moves fast -- without worrying about impact on share prices. "Look for Michael Dell to change things up quickly. Maybe he'll get rid of the client PC division, maybe not, but whatever he does he'll act soon."