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Toshiba Renews Channel Commitment, Debuts 2 SMB Tecra Laptops

Toshiba revealed two business notebooks that come on the heels of a major shakeup in its consumer business.

Toshiba said Tuesday it has two new Tecra business-class laptops that will be available exclusively through Ingram Micro and via channel partners in what the company's calling an SMB push. It comes on the heels of a major shakeup last week within the company's PC division.

The Tecra C50-B1500 ($580) and Tecra C50-B1503 ($700) are both 15.6-inch systems based on Intel's Core i3 and Core i5 processors. The laptops, available now, feature enterprise-class durability and channel-friendly incentives to reengage business resellers, according to the company.

Toshiba said SMB-friendly Tecra laptops represent the company's refocus on business sales. Toshiba last week said it was reducing its PC workforce by 900 employees and it would de-emphasize its consumer PC business in some markets and refocus on business systems and solutions.

[Related: Toshiba Makes Cloud Play With Virtual Desktop Service]

"A key business priority for us now is how do we increase our business footprint?" said Cindy Zwerling, director of channel and product marketing at Toshiba. "Our direct team has focused on the SMB market, but this will be the first time -- in a long while -- that Toshiba has worked with the channel to tackle the SMB market."

Toshiba said last week it is restructuring its PC business to focus on the "profitable" B2B space and "significantly downsize" its B2C business by pulling out of unspecified B2C geographic markets. Toshiba said its U.S. consumer PC market would remain intact. Toshiba ranked ninth among best-selling worldwide laptop brands in terms of market share during the second quarter, according to NPD.

Toshiba, with 500 authorized North American resellers, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the channel, according to VARs.

"Toshiba has failed to show a consistent commitment to the channel. One year it wants to be our best friend and next year it's business as usual," said one long-time authorized Lenovo partner that asked not to be identified. "Toshiba just isn't putting enough skin in the game when it comes to the channel to get me to turn my head."

Zwerling said the launch of the Tecra line of laptops coincides with new channel incentives, including allowing partners to registers deals of less than 29 PCs, onsite instant rebates on system sales as few as four PCs, and the introduction of reduced priced demo gear to partners.

NEXT: Toshiba's Business Ambitions Go Beyond The Laptop

"We are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to the channel," Zwerling said. Another Toshiba "differentiator," she said, was a six-month guarantee on Tecra C50's major components (motherboard, screen, hard drive and memory). If a major component fails within the first six months of ownership, Toshiba will replace the unit free of charge, Zwerling said.

"Toshiba has stepped up its partner game in a major way with us," said Grant Nadell, managing director of technology at Newport Beach, Calif.-based IT consultant DynTek Services. "Toshiba has gone from being an associate to being an extremely tight partner."

DynTek, Nadell said, was one of the first solution providers to partner with Toshiba on its cloud program, called Toshiba Cloud Services and Solutions, launched earlier this year.

"Toshiba delivers white glove service to us as channel partners," Nadell said. "That matters a lot to us, whether we are selling low-margin laptops or more lucrative complex Desktop-as-a-Service solutions."

Toshiba has been upfront about its PC business and said last week it expects to see modest growth. For that reason it has been leveraging its business PC systems over consumer in hopes that the PC platform will be a stepping stone into new business opportunities.

"By fully utilizing its differentiating strengths in PC technologies, including BIOS, security, wireless and high-density mounting, Toshiba will offer innovative and appealing IoT products and services in such areas as social infrastructure, the cloud, healthcare and home appliances," Toshiba wrote last week in explaining its PC division layoffs.


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