Briefs: December 5, 2005


According to a statement issued by his wife last Thursday, the 57-year-old Morton had two heart attacks while in a hospital recovering from pneumonia. The second attack proved fatal.

Morton is credited with building the CompUSA chain as its chairman and CEO into a multibillion operation from its beginnings as a handful of stores doing $60 million annually in a matter of five years.

Morton also was former chairman of the board for CompTIA, a computer industry trade association. Before CompUSA, he was senior vice president of operations at Home Depot. In a profile about Morton that appeared in CRN&'s Top 25 Executives in 1993, he recalled that his first fortuitous foray into retail came after months of fruitless job hunting, when he convinced a reluctant Two Guys Discount Department Store manager to grant him an interview.

“I have a pretty good vision and can usually see opportunities other people can&'t see,” Morton told CRN. “[CompUSA] had all the [business] tenets you would want to build a large national retail chain.”

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Industry watchers say Morton blazed a trail.

“Nathan Morton was the single greatest influence behind the popularizing of the computer superstore concept,” said Keith Newman, former editor of Computer Retail Week, or CRW, a CMP Media publication.

“He was an advocate, promoting not only his company but the industry to manufacturers, associations and investors,” Newman said via e-mail. “Retailers, computer manufacturers and entrepreneurs all owe him a great debt. He took [CompUSA] from concept to category leader. Above that, he was a caring person who was always giving and sharing of his time and insights.”

Jeff Matthews, general partner of Ram Partners, a Greenwich, Conn., hedge fund, who has known Morton for a long time, concurred. “He really was a pioneer. He helped take a little funky computer retailer and made it into CompUSA. At that time the business was all franchises, Businessland, Computerland. Nathan helped turn it into a retail business.”

The ASCII Group has signed an agreement with KeaneTel to promote VoIP, voice, data, Internet access, VPNs and other services provided by KeaneTel&'s portfolio of telecom carriers, according to both companies.

KeaneTel has negotiated with many carriers to provide ASCII members with special pricing, service and support levels that it said are unavailable from any other program. KeaneTel estimates the value of this agreement will exceed $50 million in carrier revenue.

“The time is right for IT services providers, systems integrators and resellers to grow their businesses through additional revenue streams. It is time an IT-focused group like ASCII converges with a telecom-focused group like KeaneTel to deliver a more complete solution then either of us can deliver alone,” said Alan Weinberger, chairman, president and CEO of ASCII, in a statement.

Under the agreement, KeaneTel will provide sales, implementation and other support, training, back-office support and other value-added services to the ASCII members and their customers. ASCII will use its position to deliver the KeaneTel carrier products to the SMB market, said Pete Keane, president and CEO of KeaneTel.

Tiffani Bova, director of channel strategy for Gateway, is leaving the company at year&'s end as the PC maker streamlines its direct and indirect sales units.

Bova told CRN that Gateway remains on track with its channel strategy and program, and has signed 85 solution providers since it began its new effort early this year. She will be succeeded by Matt McManus, Gateway&'s senior director of channel programs, whom Bova described as her “right-hand man.”

Gateway is merging its direct and indirect sales forces of the company&'s commercial sales organization. As a result, Gateway&'s inside sales representatives will now be compensated equally whether sales are closed directly or via solution providers, Bova said.

With the transition to one sales organization, Bova said it was a natural time to depart the company. She said she is not leaving to take another job, but is considering other opportunities.

McManus is a two-year Gateway veteran who spent more than 12 years as a sales executive at distributor Tech Data.

EqualLogic has hired former Microsoft executive Bob Skelley to spearhead its storage channel efforts, which focus on Microsoft environments.

Skelley was hired as vice president of channel development after a long career at Microsoft where he managed OEM, system builder, distributor and solution provider business, most recently as that company&'s director of U.S. distribution and VAR channels.

Joining EqualLogic was a way to help a relatively new company build a strong channel, Skelley said. “EqualLogic is still in the early stages of its product life cycle,” he said. “We already have 200 partners [in the United States], but it&'s still early. That&'s an opportunity for me to add to the channel from the ground up.”

About 80 percent of the vendor&'s business already comes from the channel, with the remainder going direct because of legacy relationships or lack of channel coverage in certain geographies, Skelley said.

While EqualLogic is courting solution providers with strong storage experience looking to bring iSCSI to their customer bases, the company is focusing its recruitment efforts on traditional Microsoft solution providers, Skelley said.

WLAN security vendor Colubris Networks this week is scheduled to release new hardware that streamlines the process of securing and managing wireless networks.

Colubris&' InCharge RF Manager and InCharge RF Planner are WLAN infrastructure that work in conjunction with Colubris&' Intelligent MultiService System, which consists of WLAN controllers and access points. The new products incorporate intrusion detection, location, and visualization technology from Airtight Networks, a WLAN security vendor.

Designed to complement wired security systems, the InCharge RF Manager can identify WLAN security threats and block attacks without disrupting network traffic. The product also provides realtime RF visualization, configurable enforcement and regulatory compliance, according to Carl Blume, director of product marketing at Colubris Networks.

The InCharge RF Planner is WLAN modeling software designed to be used in the planning of the WLAN. It takes into account the physical layout of the office environment to determine placement of access points in order to yield maximum network performance.