5 Questions For Intel Channel Chief Steve Dallman

Inside Intel

At the 2013 Intel Solutions Summit in Los Angeles, CRN talked with Intel channel chief Steve Dallman about the state of the Intel channel and the current woes of the PC market. Dallman shared his views on Ultrabooks and tablets, the future of the custom PC market, and new growth areas for partners. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

For more on Intel, check out CRN's special report on the chip maker's plans to resuscitate the PC system builder channel, available exclusively on the CRN Tech News App.

What do you see happening with the custom PC market?

I see it as two different markets. There's the desktop space and the mobile space. And then those markets differ based on regions. For the desktop custom business, we worry about that. A lot of system builders are embracing custom servers now and some of them are leaving PCs. In North America, custom desktops are still doing very well in certain segments like gaming, tech enthusiasts and application-specific systems. And I think North America will do more custom all-in-one [AIO] desktops. We came up with the new thin mini-ITX boards for all-in-ones, and now you're seeing new chassis come out for those designs. So the products are there.

Intel is lowering Ultrabook prices. Are you worried about demand?

Remember, Ultrabooks are still pretty young. We're really not trying to get to a particular price point. But some of the component costs are starting to come down, like solid-state drives, and we want to make Ultrabooks affordable. Maybe we will sell as many Ultrabooks this year as we set out in our goals, and maybe we won't. But one thing is for sure -- we're not going back to the days of the 1-inch-thick notebooks anymore. The ultrathin design is here to stay.

How many partners are currently in the Intel Technology Provider Program?

We have around 20,000 partners in North America. Last year we stripped a lot of people out of the program. We had been adding a lot of people, and they'd sign up for the program but not do anything. They just weren't engaged. It was pretty painful at times, but it had to be done. At the same time, we replaced those people with new partners. We added around 7,000 or so new partners to the [Intel Technology Provider] program in North America and Latin America.

Can system builders get into the tablet game?

Tablets are simpler systems so I think in many ways it will be easier for them to do custom tablets than it was to start doing notebooks years ago. The components are out there. So I think my guys will take tablets into a host of vertical niches. There's room for growth in the tablet space around vertically oriented devices, ruggedized tablets and application-specific slates. We're not there just yet, but I think we can be there soon.

What are some new growth areas you're seeing in the channel?

I think the machine-to-machine [M2M] and intelligent systems are pretty exciting. C.J. [Bruno, president of Intel Americas] and I had a partner board of advisors meeting recently and two partners came in who had just done some connected M2M solutions. We were just really impressed. There's a lot of exciting things that can be done with connecting all of these intelligent systems together. It's a good business for partners, because the margins are higher and the IT skills needed for the solutions are crucial.