VARs Take Advantage Of Training For Vista OS

With the buzz and hype that surrounded Microsoft's recent Vista launch (what little there was) already fading, it's time for VARs to get down to the business of evaluating their customers' gear and shepherding them along the upgrade path.

With big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City and the Redmondian's own hand-picked choice, CompUSA--which offers free "Vista evaluations" for small-business customers by its TechPro technicians--already heavily involved in wooing SMB users into low-touch engagements, VARs may need some help to stay in the Vista game and generate some desire for their own services.

"If resellers are prepared, they'll find significant opportunities for upgrades, cross-sales and new business," says Dan Schwab, D&H's VP of marketing.

Enter the distributors, who are busy rolling out bundles, rebates, training and promotions aimed at giving resellers a leg up with Vista sales.

Leading the disty charge is D&H Distributing, which late last month announced a lineup of training sessions, bundled products, rebates and other monthlong promotions on Vista-related solutions. According to company executives, the programs are designed to help resellers take full advantage of Vista.

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In announcing his Vista support, Dan Schwab, vice president of marketing at D&H, called the new OS "one of the most anticipated launches in years. If resellers are prepared, they'll find significant opportunities for upgrades, cross-sales and new business."

This month, the Harrisburg, Pa.-based distributor's "Vista Sales Driver" initiatives will include rebated bundles built around the OEM products--memory, hard drives, LCDs, multicore CPUs and graphics cards--needed to make Vista live up to its potential. And manufacturers such as AMD, ATI, Digitel, Intel, Kingston, ViewSonic and Western Digital ran promotions on gear.

In addition to the Sales Driver promotions, D&H is continuing its successful Vista training sessions for VARs. The sessions--with titles such as "Microsoft Vista and Office 2007: Your Multi-Million Dollar Opportunity"--being held at trade shows and other industry events, give resellers valuable sales strategies and product information.

The D&H representatives conducting the seminars have themselves been trained on Vista and will ultimately act as consultants to their reseller accounts, execs say.

Also supporting the Vista push for VARs is Tech Data. The Clearwater, Fla.-based disty will offer help through its Software Desk to provide initial licensing and pricing information for the multiple Vista editions.

Resellers can also access Tech Data's dedicated Microsoft systems engineers for more complex design and configuration issues, including what additional hardware components and upgrades may be needed to ensure efficient operation of a specific Vista installation.

In addition, resellers have access to Tech Data's TDOnCall service suite. Those services feature discounted Vista training courses such as "Implementing and Maintaining Windows Vista" and "Migrating to Windows Vista"; 24/7 Vista help-desk support that VARs can resell to their end users; staff augmentation to help resellers support new Vista installations and upgrades; and secure, environmentally sound asset-disposal services for existing hardware unable to support Vista.

The programs come even as demand for Vista out of the gate has been tepid at best. Microsoft's channel partners have been complaining about the lack of any real marketing momentum behind the Vista and Office 11 rollouts. All of the major retailers reported extremely slow sales of, and very little interest in, Vista in the days following the commercial release on Jan. 30.

The lack of excitement in the marketplace is even more reason for VARs to avail themselves of training and support assistance, say distribution executives, most of whom expect to sell hundreds of thousands of Vista and Vista-related units once the launch is officially under way.

"Whether it's being voiced or not, we're already seeing a strong demand," D&H's Schwab says. "We want to position our resellers to capitalize on what could be a watershed moment."