Apple Partners Speak Out On Channel Conflict

The majority of Apple solution providers polled in a September CRN Intelligence survey said they have battled the company's direct sales force in enterprise accounts. This comes as Apple is stepping up its corporate offensive, including partnerships with Cisco and IBM.

Fifty-five percent of 175 Apple partners said they have gone toe-to-toe with Apple's direct sales force in the last year. Some 14 percent rated Apple enterprise channel conflict as high, while 33 percent rated it as medium, and 46 percent rated it as low.

"There is no enterprise channel partnership with Apple, period," said the CEO for an SP500 solution provider, who carries Apple products and did not want to be named. "There is no money in Apple, and there is not that much volume in Apple. We have it because it is good for our customers who want Apple service and support because Apple isn't reaching them. If Apple didn't need us, they would cut us off at our knees. Apple does not care about the resellers. They are independently arrogant."

[Related: Bad Apple: An Inside look At The Rotting Relationship Between Apple And Its Partners]

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Thirty-seven percent of partners, meanwhile, are skeptical that the partnership with Cisco will have an impact on the channel standoff with Apple. Twenty-one percent expect a fair amount of channel engagement under the deal, 10 percent expect poor engagement and 6 percent expect zero engagement.

The Cisco deal comes just 13 months after Apple inked a pact with IBM to move iPads and iPhones into the enterprise, a move widely criticized by solution providers. IBM, in fact, has prevented solution providers from reselling any of the IBM-developed apps or the bundles that combine IBM MDM services and Apple maintenance services.

Apple and Cisco, for their part, have provided no specific product integration plans or time lines around the deal. But Cisco has insisted it includes joint engineering and go-to-market efforts, and that the fruits of the partnership will be available through both the direct and indirect sales channels of both companies.

The SP500 CEO said he does not expect the partnership to have any significant impact on the contentious relationship between enterprise partners and Apple.

"Apple is going to continue to struggle to get into the enterprise market," he said. "It is not just about selling hardware. You need applications and services and support. Customers need help, and Apple isn't going to be able to provide it on its own."

As far as Apple's investment in the enterprise channel, 37 percent of partners rated Apple as poor or fair. "Apple feels in their heart they don't need resellers," said the SP500 CEO. "Instead of embracing the channel to help them grow the enterprise business and raise the customer satisfaction bar, they are only interested in moving product as fast and cheap as they can, making as much money as they can by not having to pay a third-party solution provider."