Intel Details New Channel Exclusives At Partner Summit

“The message is that on servers, desktops and whitebooks, Intel is bringing out channel-only SKUs,” said Pat Taylor, president of Proactive Technology, a Carrolton, Texas-based system builder and member of Intel’s board of advisors, said during the annual conference for Intel’s top system builders.

Intel partners have long been asking for more customized offerings to help them differentiate their products from branded PC makers.

Intel rolled out its most elaborate custom initiative this year for whitebooks, which have been underperforming against the fast-growing branded notebook market. Bill Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Channel Platform Group, said the initiative features standardized components and two channel-exclusive offerings: a validation program and first-level partner support.

Siu announced at the conference that original design manufacturers Quanta Computer, Asustek and Compal Electronics have agreed to support Intel’s initiative to standardize key whitebook components, including drives, LCD panels, batteries and AC adapters, to make them cheaper to produce and easier to service. “Together, these three manufacturers provide close to 70 percent of the whitebook market,” he said.

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Whitebooks that support the standardized components will be certified with a “Verified by Intel” letter and will include first-level technical support directly from Intel.

Siu said the first notebooks to roll out under this initiative would be dual-core Core Duo models. He expected they would be priced from the “high hundreds to $1,500,” depending on the configuration, with Intel planning to expand the SKUs in the future.

With about 450 of Intel’s Premier Partners at the event representing a variety of business models, the reaction was varied. Most believed the move would improve either whitebook sales or service revenue. But a number also worried about pricing, as Dell pushes notebooks to the small-business market at prices less than $800.

Paul Liebat, sales manager at Winotek, summed up the sentiments of many when he said his Cincinnati-based system builder will look more seriously at getting into the whitebook market as a result of Intel’s new initiative. But he expressed concern about price competition with large OEMs such as Dell. “That is what has kept us out of notebooks in general,” Liebat said.

Also at the show, Intel and Microsoft promised an upcoming program to help spur whitebook sales but declined to reveal specifics.

Intel’s other channel-specific offering is a CPU based on its new server platform. That CPU, code-named Dempsey, is expected to show up in servers around May.

System builders believe Intel will offer significant rebates on this model so that they can offer competitively priced volume servers for the small-business market.

Byron Hay, production manager at HBR Technologies, Carrolton, Texas, said a low-priced, channel-only SKU is necessary to compete with Dell in the low-end server space. “It would give us a price advantage over Dell,” he said.

And there is more to come. “We are looking at more specific SKUs for the channel,” said Steve Dallman, director of distribution and channel sales and marketing at Intel.