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The difference between a hardware channel and a developer channel

By Andrew Pollack on 08/06/2004 at 09:38 PM EDT

I’m reading some things on IBM’s appointment of a new top channel guy, particularly interesting was Zarly’s take on it. Opinions abound of course. Mine is that IBM are desperate for someone to turn the program into something sensible. I hope Don turns out good. I know nothing at all about him.

The point that IBM has missed for years, I think, is that a software developer based channel is inherently different from a hardware reseller one. Sure, there are platform differences from server to server, but ultimately you can compare competing hardware platforms on specs and move from one vendor to another fairly quickly. Software developers spend years getting to know a system and changing is not trivial. Instead of quickly changing to something else as the market and products change, picking up a new platform to write for is a huge commitment.

The relationship of a hardware reseller to a hardware vendor is very specific and transaction oriented. Good channel relationships are easily apparent, spiffs and rebates go a long way to patch mistakes and poor decisions. The relationship between a software vendor and the developers that make the platform valuable is much more interdependent. Developers by spending years learning and improving expect more than price breaks in return. They expect to be listened to by the vendors, they expect to work closely. Committing to a vendor’s platform is an act of trust and faith for the developer – I’ll spare the obvious metaphor here.

IBM need to recognize the difference in this relationship at the top, as well as its Lotus business unit has always recognized it from the bottom up.

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