Apple’s plans to recruit new VARs and build its reseller channel in a bid to pump up sales of its Xserve, Xserve RAID, and Mac OS X Server solutions.

The company is holding sign-up events in four cities (Toronto, Montreal,

Vancouver and Calgary) across Canada this month to outline the

ROI/technology

benefits of using Apple products. The company is looking at an Ottawa date as well.

The Xserve, announced a little over a year ago, is a new server product for Apple, says Mary Percat, Apple Canada’s channel strategy and development manager. Xserve RAID, meanwhile, is a storage system, which Percat says offers enhanced performance and competitive pricing. The third product is an operating system that works on the server product, dubbed Mac OS X server.

“These three products have allowed Apple to enter into some new markets that Apple is not commonly known to want to go after – that being the enterprise market . . . While the storage product is suitable for other markets, when you line them all together they are very compelling for the enterprise market and the SMB market.”

“This has opened up new opportunities for certain types of VARs especially on the service side, integration and installation.”

While Apple has a good base of resellers already on the books, Percat says the company needs to develop a new channel and go after VARs with expertise in servicing the enterprise market, she says. “Our existing channel partners, although very capable of servicing our existing and where we have been historically very strong is in the print, publishing market very well, but we realized with some of these other markets that we don’t have the channel built up that we need to support these new markets.”

The VAR recruitment program, the details of which are still being worked out, will try to attract VARs and system integrators across the country – an activity the company hasn’t done in a number years. “Apple has not historically, in over five years, gone to the marketplace soliciting new resellers. Because of our brand, because of our products, our resellers have always come to us. So there’s never been a big recruitment initiative because, quite frankly, it has never been needed.”

And now because the products are new to Apple, resellers need the expertise and competency level that’s required of a new channel partner.

So what are the requirements? Percat says Apple wants VARs to have an outbound focus. “We’re looking for those VARs that have key access to SMB customers. We’re looking for system integrators that have expertise in-house, especially in mixed environments where we see Unix, NT and some Apple as well. And Linux especially because our server and operating system, Mac OS X, runs very well on Linux systems.”

Resellers looking for alternatives to take to their customers – today we have largely Intel processor-based servers at a certain price point – can now look towards the Apple trio of products for a twist.

The hunt for VAR news comes at the same time the company announced plans to slash prices on its 12 and 15-inch PowerBook G4 models by up to US$300. Steve Jobs announced it’s “the year of the laptop” at January’s

Macworld Conference & Expo held in San Francisco, Calif.

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