Geared For The Channel

Sony Electronics' IT Products Division this week plans to unveil a Vaio Professional partner program for its A-series 15-inch and 17-inch wide-screen notebooks and its new S-series 1-inch-thick notebooks with 13-inch LCDs, said Mike Abary, general manager for Vaio product marketing.

A 15-inch A-series notebook with a conventional screen also will be included in the program, and in September, Sony plans to roll out new models exclusively for the channel, Abary said.

The Vaio Professional program products are standardized on Windows XP Professional and have life cycles of six to 12 months, instead of the typical four months, Abary said. They also include standard image loads and can be built to order. The program, too, offers discounts for government and education customers, which will give solution providers extra margin points, he said.

Rick Harber, president and CEO of Decision Digital, an Atlanta-based solution provider, said he expects the new program to improve his company's relationship with Sony, which at times has been frustrating.

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"It will definitely make a difference," Harber said. "I can tell you, the relationship in the last 90 days has changed. [Now] I get a call from my Sony rep at least once a month."

Harber also welcomed the chance to earn bigger margins on Vaios. "If they give us the opportunity to make money, we all win," he said.

Toshiba also aims to put more dollars into its solution providers' pockets. This month, the vendor's Digital Products Division launched a rewards initiative designed to increase the returns partners can get through its year-old Preferred Partner Program, said Patrick Mani, vice president of sales. Toshiba now plans to spur channel sales of its Tecra and Portege notebooks and focus less on its lower-end Satellite brand, he said.

Tecra and Portege products have nine-month guaranteed life cycles, which Toshiba aims to expand to 12 to 16 months, Mani said. Satellite products have three- to six-month life cycles. "[But] we will continue to offer Satellites to the channel," he said.

Under the rewards program, Toshiba awards partner sales reps points for every Tecra and Portege sold, and the points can be used for Toshiba catalog purchases, Mani said. The vendor will continue to offer 3 percent rebates on sales of Tecras, Porteges and Toshiba accessories to select partners.

Silver-level partners qualify for the base rewards program, while Gold partners also are eligible for the rebates, Mani said. Platinum partners qualify for the rewards program, rebates and market development funds.

Toshiba initially planned to drop its 1 percent rebate for Satellite laptops, but late last week the vendor said it decided not to do so.

"I have a lot of customers that like that little Satellite laptop, as far as its durability and price," said Brian Richardson, president of Full Moon Technologies, a Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.-based solution provider. "The [product's] price is just unbeatable, and people like that value."