Xerox Launches Channel Expansion, SMB Push

Company executives, meeting with 800 value-added resellers and solution providers in Orlando, Fla., unveiled a series of new hardware products, software tools and a major expansion of the company's channel program as it seeks to grow its IT channel presence.

The company also said it is opening its entire lineup of office products to distribution for the first time.

Key initiatives will target IT solution providers in the U.S., providing them with a streamlined version of its document assessment tool for the channel, new document hardware and opportunities to deliver higher-end solutions not previously available to VARs. There will also be a new "Platinum" tier for its channel program for top-selling solution providers.

Meanwhile the company announced a new North American Partners Group within Xerox, to be headed by corporate vice president D. Cameron Hyde.

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"We want to be your partner of choice," said Jim Firestone, president of Xerox North America. Firestone said the company is focusing on driving a broader array of price points, products and solutions aimed at small and mid-sized business.

In a speech to solution providers, Firestone repeated the company's call to arms for the past four years: "Partner or Perish." He also recounted how several years ago in the midst of significant financial trouble at the company, it nearly did perish. Now that Xerox is a comeback story, the vendor is seeking out growth in the fragmented, and up-for-grabs, SMB arena.

"The Xerox brand is totally underrepresented in the small and mid-sized business market," Firestone said. "We're not even in the game 80 percent of the time when a decision is made in the small business market."

The Stamford, Conn.-based company announced seven new lower-cost document hardware products that start at a $499 street price point but also include the Phaser 6360, a desktop color MFP with performance of 42 pages per minute, street-priced at $1,399; the Phaser 8560, a solid-ink color printer with a 30-page per minute speed and street price of $799; and the Phaser 6115 MFP, a desktop multi-function device with a street price of $799.

The company also said it was making available a lighter-weight version of its Xerox Office Productivity Advisor (XOPA) tool for document assessment, called "QuickXOPA" " a web-based tool solution providers can use to perform document assessment consulting for their customers.

"For us, Xerox Corp., to achieve the goal of long-term and sustainable revenue growth we must absolutely get a bigger piece of this (SMB) market," Jerry Farmer, Xerox's senior vice president of North American reseller channels, told solution providers at the company's partner summit. "You will play an increasingly important role in our future."

Last month, Xerox CEO and Chairman Anne Mulcahy tipped the company's new strategy when she told financial analysts in a conference call that the company would be aggressive in growing its sales through the channel.

Solution providers at the company's first-ever channel summit sounded largely supportive of Xerox' aggressive, new efforts at engagement. Many are also partners with Xerox rivals, and were eager to hear additional details throughout the conference.

"I feel like in many respects, we're already doing many of the things they're trying to accomplish," said Bob Landman, general manager of Compuwave, a Venture, Calif.-based solution provider. "I believe in document management. Building systems that can capture, print and store forms for the customer is exactly where it's at today."

Landman said his company has been increasing the business it has done with Xerox over the past five years " largely a time when Xerox Chairman and CEO Anne Mulcahy has been targeting the channel for incremental growth. However he said his company also maintains a strong relationship with Xerox rival Hewlett-Packard. One benefit of partnering with HP over Xerox is that company provides key incentives to channel partners including investment in their training and education, Landman said.

"Xerox doesn't pay (for certification)," Landman said. "HP does."

Firestone said that the company would be providing a "multi-million dollar investment" in channel tools, including funding for training and certification.

"You can't have a strong IT solution without an equally strong document solution," Firestone said.