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Sat 22 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Intel brings ‘technology rabbits’ to the boil

Intel is banking on forward-thinking top-level Intel Premier Partners (IPPs) — referred to internally at the processor giant as ‘technology rabbits’ — to take the lead in transforming the humble PC into the all-conquering centrepiece of its digital home vision.

Intel is banking on forward-thinking top level Intel Premier Partners (IPPs) — referred to internally at the processor giant as ‘technology rabbits’ — to take the lead in transforming the humble PC into the all conquering centrepiece of its digital home vision.

Intel whipped up channel enthusiasm for the home entertainment PC concept at its sixth annual Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Intel Solutions Summit. The event, held last week in Madrid, gathered more than 500 IPPs from across the region.

John Lonergan, director of worldwide channel marketing at Intel, laid out the vendor’s vision: “Intel is looking to expand its reach into emerging markets and the SMB space and strengthen the overall brand still further. We also want to create technology rabbits: IPPs that respond quickly to new technology and have the capability and competency to introduce them first to market.”

To reinforce its focus on mobility, the digital home and corporate refresh, Intel announced plans to expand its channel programme to cover 20 new countries in EMEA. “Intel will invest from top to bottom with R&D and channel investment top priorities,” added Lonergan. “In 2004 we are turbo charging channel investment and taking the Intel brand and partner programmes to new cities and new countries across the globe.”

“Intel is building up the channel as part of a programme called D4: discover, deploy, develop and deliver,” Lonergan continued. “This means embarking on roadshows and recruiting Intel Product Integrators (IPIs) and local distributors in new markets. We then add sales people, start running Intel channel conferences and begin to influence key end-users. The third stage involves launching the Intel Inside programme and qualifying IPPs. The final stage is to open an Intel office.”

With the PC morphing into a home entertainment hub, Intel was quick to highlight the potential this new market offers to IPPs. “The challenge for the EMEA channel is to try and double its revenues by 2007,” explained Willy Agatstein, general manager reseller products group at Intel. “The PC industry is ideally placed to win out in the digital home environment. New products and new form factors are available that allow IPPs to move into this nascent area, find new customers, new markets and new revenue opportunities. This can also mean better margins for IPPs and the time is right to enter this market now.”

Intel will use specific channel incentives and promotions to encourage IPPs down the digital home convergence path. “Digital home marketing will involve retail campaigns, experience marketing and co-marketing funds,” adds Agatstein. “It is not enough that the digital home exists — we now need to tell people about it in a way they understand and give them additional reasons to purchase high performance PC systems.”

Intel executives were quick to allay fears that poor internet penetration and limited access to broadband services would limit the appeal of the digital home vision in the Middle East markets. “It is important to roll these concepts out in a way that is appropriate to the local market,” admitted Agatstein. “But many of the benefits of the digital home are not reliant on having a broadband internet connection.”

One Middle East IPP already pursuing the digital home dream is Jebel Ali-based Emachine. With products such as its small form factor eCube PCs and its Showcenter unit — a device that turns a PC into a home media server — Emachine’s range already fits well with Intel’s vision.

“More and more companies are moving into the digital home arena from a variety of starting points and new channels-to-market are opening up,” explained Sankar Kiruba, general manager at Emachine Middle East.

With margins on standard desktop PCs and notebooks still wafer-thin, the lure of the digital home PCs will prove attractive to many IPPs. It represents an opportunity to create differentiated products and offer value-add services. Expect the trickle of such devices onto the market to turn into a flood as more and more products are launched. Even in the Middle East, the IPP ‘rabbits’ are already up and running for Intel.

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