Dell EMC, Lenovo Execs Tout Channel Profits, Innovation In Duel For Partners' Attention

Two of the largest PC vendors in the IT industry – Dell Technologies and Lenovo – continued their battle for channel relevance by making the case for the profitability of their offerings, innovation and quality of their products directly to solution providers.

David Miketinac, Dell EMC vice president of North America distribution, and Lenovo Ambassador Stephen Miller took to the stage at The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla., Sunday evening, and each had a dramatic message for the channel.

Miketinac highlighted Dell Technologies' development of a unified channel program after Dell's $58 billion acquisition of EMC last year, saying the company is working to tie together its vast portfolio in a cohesive way to make it simple for partners to sell as customers increasingly take hold of digital transformation.

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"Channel partners and distributors are literally on the front lines of enabling this shift from the status quo and tying it all together," Miketinac said. "We are at the beginning of an innovation explosion. CEOs want to go from tech as a negative in the P&L to leveraging it. Companies are being asked, 'What's your IoT strategy? What's your cloud strategy? What's your workforce strategy?' And they have to make sure it's all secure. We can't do it alone."

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell Technologies has pumped $150 million into partner marketing, and the "simple, predictable, profitable" mantra is guiding the ongoing development of its new partner program.

Miketinac, who works directly under Jim DeFoe, Dell's global distribution leader, said solution providers are also well-served by strong relationships with distributors. Distribution, Miketinac said, "expands the reach of where you are today, helps drive net new customers and nurtures existing relationships." Distribution also gives solution providers access to technical assistance, additional marketing funds and "boutique offerings you could not afford on your own. It delivers value, and strengthens your portfolio by giving you 24/7 access to everything we sell," he said.

Lenovo's Miller made the case that Lenovo's commitment to the channel is deep and important, noting that 90 percent of the China-based company's North America sales go through the channel. "We are today partner-focused and partner-first," Miller said. "We need you to grow, and we need to pay attention to what's going on in this space."

Lenovo is in a neck-and-neck battle with HP Inc. for global PC supremacy, but is the third-largest PC vendor in North America, trailing Dell and HP Inc. In recent quarters, Dell has been consolidating share, gaining against first-place HP and putting distance between itself and Lenovo.

Miller predicted that the PC market "has finished its fall," and that Lenovo is well-positioned to capitalize on its return with innovative, secure PCs. "What does an end user need? Not just a good product set for today, but the future. Why don't you have folding screens? Why don't you change the idea of what the PC is?"

Along with that, Miller said Lenovo is prepared to offer partners rebates and incentives up to 20 percent on PC sales, and is counting on success with a new support structure that gives customers and partners a single point of contact for support within Lenovo.

Sanjiv Goyal, CEO of Droisys, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider, said it's important for vendors like Dell and Lenovo to prove to the channel that they're trying to remain relevant in a fast-changing IT market.

"The cloud is changing the game," Goyal said. "What are they doing to stay relevant? If we know what they're doing to stay relevant, we can do something about it. We can plan our strategy, we can plan our vision. We can align ourselves better for the future."

Dan Vesledahl, vice president of operations at Minkota Technologies, a Winger, Minn.-based solution provider, said he sees both Lenovo and Dell Technologies making changes to stay relevant and profitable for partners and Minkota had done well selling Dell EMC servers and Lenovo workstations. "We're doing really well with both, and I think they both understand that there's a lot of competition."

Vesledahl said Minkota is doing especially well with Lenovo's Tiny Workstation, a product Miller and other executives have made a symbol of Lenovo innovation and performance. "Desk space hasn't changed, and [customers] don't like a big computer sitting around, and we've actually noticed a lot of growth there, in the last year, I'd say we're up 15 percent at least just with the Tiny."

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