2008 CRN Channel Champions: Peripherals

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When it comes to flat-panel displays of 19- to 30-inches, solution providers say no one is better than Samsung America Inc.

The Irvine, Calif.-based vendor rode a strong showing in technical criteria, and program and support criteria to win the category with a 72.5 overall satisfaction rating. Samsung's was a decisive showing over No. 2 Taiwanese Acer Inc., which earned a 70.3 and No. 3 ViewSonic Corp., Walnut, Calif., which earned a 70.0.

Samsung won four of five technical criteria and three of five program and support categories to capture the overall win. It also finished first in two of the four financial criteria, but was edged out for that overall category by Acer.

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Jon Layish, president of Red Barn Computers, a Binghamton, N.Y.-based solution provider, said Samsung is a more expensive line than he typically offers to customers, but he likes the product for customers that don't mind paying the extra penny.

"We've always been happy with Samsung. They're quality and they have a good reputation. We generally regard it as a higher-end item," he said.

Jessica Ottesen, co-founder and director of sales at US Techdisplay LLC, a Columbia, Md.-based solution provider, said Samsung displays meet the high standards of a couple of her photographer clients. "The color matching is very specific. What they're able to provide for the money, it's a phenomenal product.
Even when you compare it to more expensive specialty products, [like] photography monitors, they do a great job," Ottesen said.

Chris Franey, vice president of marketing and commercial sales for Samsung, said the company worked hard last year to reach out to resellers and develop more solutions-based products.

"When I came on board, we huddled everybody and went to over 250 solution providers to ask them what's good, what's bad, what do you need. We relaunched our partner program and that resonated well and was relevant to what solution providers were looking for," Franey said.

-- Scott Campbell

Xerox Corp. is this year's reigning Channel Champ in the workgroup color laser printers category. Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox was the overall champ with a rating of 75.0, easily beating second-place finisher Ricoh's rating of 72.3. Hewlett-Packard Co. came in third, narrowly missing Ricoh Americas Corp., with a rating of 72.1 points.

Xerox won the category even though it got beat in overall technical criteria by HP, Palo Alto, Calif., which upstaged Xerox by a full point in the area, led by a resounding win in product quality and reliability and solid scores in serviceability and management and configuration features.

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When it came to program and support criteria, Xerox earned 70.6 points, showing its greatest strength in support. It beat the next-ranked vendor in pre-sales support by 4.2 points and in post-sales support by 3.9 points. It also had a 2.4 point lead in technical training.

Xerox swept the financial criteria, earning a 66.2 score, which was 1.7 points ahead of its closest competitor, Oki Data Americas Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., with a 64.5.

"We're always improving and refining our partner program," said Gary Gillam, vice president, Xerox North American channel operations. "In 2007, we really focused on education and training, as well as channel expansion. Throughout the year we hosted multiple Webinars and conducted road shows, again, aimed at giving our reseller partners tools to improve their value proposition and better serve SMB customers."

Xerox recently revamped its channel program, expanding its rewards and training programs and launching a deal registration program, Gillam said.

David Anderson, president of Pasadena, Calif.-based solution provider Anderson Business Technology, said Xerox's products are as good as its programs and that the vendor often works with his company on deals. "The color is just wonderful. Its not considered graphic-level color but we put it in graphic environments and people are very, very happy with it.

-- Jennifer Lawinski

American Power Conversion Corp. won the UPS Data Center Power Management category in the 2008 CRN Channel Champions Survey, thanks to a strong showing in the technical criteria and a solid performance in the financial criteria.

The West Kingston, R.I.-based vendor scored 75.6 overall to edge out Liebert Corp., which scored 75.3. Powerware with a 70.6 and Tripp Lite with 69.8 rounded out the vendors considered.

APC finished first in all five technical criteria, two of four financial criteria and one of five program and support criteria.

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Tarun Bhakta, president of Vision Computers Inc., a Norcross, Ga., system builder, is not surprised APC scored well with other solution providers.

"There's a reason we sell them. When we get a spec in, they're always in it. Especially [for power management products], reliability and uptime is more important than anything else."

APC also offers strong margins with its data center products, he added. But when it comes to the desktop, the lines blur between the vendors, he said.

For this category, Bhakta also doesn't care if other vendors scored better in program and support criteria. "The post-sales support is there, but very little is required because the product tends to work all the time," he said.

John Layish, president of Red Barn Computers, a Binghamton, N.Y.-based solution provider, said he's never had issues with APC's support and conceded that technical support isn't a high priority when choosing a UPS anyway. "They're reliable. They work. They have a good reputation. You're not typically going to go wrong with them," Layish said. "On some lower-end retail stuff, we might use someone else. But with any higher-end stuff, we default to APC. They're a fairly de facto standard."

Rob McKernan, vice president of Americas channels and alliances at APC, said its strong showing in technical criteria could be due to the vendor's strategy, started three years ago, to put more advanced products into the hands of solution providers.

"We backed that with training, Webinars on how to sell, how to identify IT power-cooling opportunities," McKernan said. "It's still a very strong technology and we back it up, allowing partners to take advantage of revenue opportunities with those products."

-- Scott Campbell

Xerox Corp. has unseated perennial front-runner Hewlett-Packard Co. in this year's Channel Champions matchup in the multifunction printers arena.

Xerox, Norwalk, Conn., leapt ahead of Lexmark International Inc. from fourth place last year to first this year, and had an overall rating of 74.4 in the multifunction printers category, beating its competition in the technical criteria and the program and support criteria.

Lexmark came in second with an overall rating of 72.7, followed by HP with 71.0 and Brother International Corp. with 70.3.

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In the technical area it was three criteria—output speed and quality, serviceability and security—that led the way to Xerox's win. In the program and support criteria it was support and training where Xerox distinguished itself.

Lexmark swept all criteria in the the financial area, ending up with a full one-point lead over Xerox.

"Xerox dramatically increased the number of desktop multifunction printers in our product portfolio, creating additional opportunities for resellers as customers replace their single-function printers with MFPs. We also announced a new program called IT Advantage which gives certified resellers access to higher-end MFPs," said Gary Gillam, vice president, Xerox North American channel operations.

Tim Freeman, vice president of sales for The Performance Group, an imaging solution provider based in Ventura, Calif., said his customers choose Xerox multifunction printers because of their quality, reliability and reputation. "Brand recognition is probably 50 percent of the reason people buy Xerox, if not more," Freeman said.

"They're quite reliable actually. That's one reason I prefer to sell Xerox. We also sell HP but I sell Xerox over HP because of the reliability long-term," he said. They also have a lower total cost of ownership than the competition, he said.

When it came to financial satisfaction, however, Xerox faltered. Lexmark had the highest financial satisfaction rating of the bunch at 65.4. Lexmark bested HP in program and support ratings, coming in with a satisfaction rating of 65.6 to HP's 62.8, HP's technical satisfaction rating of 85.4 beat Lexmark's 83.6.

-- Jennifer Lawinski

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