No Joybook in Canada, yet

Will the JoyBook come to Canada any time soon? And will Ingram Micros new channel program be extended to Canada this year? A lot has been going on in the distributor world lately, but resellers are still

waiting for answers.

BenQ Corp., formerly Acer Peripherals, made a big splash when it debuted its networked lifestyle products at Comdex Fall 2002. Now it wants to launch the JoyBook its multimedia notebook into North America, starting with the smaller and more manageable Canadian market.

The notebook market is already crowded, with big-name vendors such as IBM, HP, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Sony playing in this space not to mention a number of whitebook system builders. And the market is declining, according to analysts, as more whitebook system builders offer high-quality products at affordable prices meaning the market is getting tougher for new players to enter.

BenQ believes its experience in peripherals gives it an edge over other vendors, since many users have difficulty integrating different peripherals into notebooks. The concept behind the JoyBook is to make that integration easier; it comes bundled with the companys own multimedia OS and can link display devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, digital cameras, recordable CD disk drives and MP3 players.

Recently BenQ announced two strategic distribution partnerships in Canada. Bell Micro Canada will distribute its storage and components products (such as mice and keyboards) and serve as BenQs primary partner for components in Canada. And Tech Data will distribute its digital media products including LCD TVs, LCD/CRT displays and monitors, digital projectors, flat-bed scanners and digital cameras. For Tech Data, its partnership with BenQ the third-largest manufacturer of displays in the world is in line with its focus on building its digital media products portfolio.

The question now is: will they further this relationship with Tech Data to build JoyBooks for the Canadian market? Currently, BenQ doesnt have build-to-order resources here. But Tech Data does through its Bizcom program and the distributor says its talked to BenQ about the JoyBook. This could benefit both companies and provide an alternative brand for the channel. Another benefit for resellers is BenQs focus on the channel: its relying on VARs, system integrators and resellers to sell its products. And its rolled out the Qreseller program that includes features such as 30-day price protection, 30-day stock rotation and warranty services. Ultimately, the success of the JoyBook in Canada will depend on how well the channel can make a name for the JoyBook in an already crowded market.

In other news, Ingram Micro US is changing its Advantage reseller program, but will this mean changes to the Canadian program? The distributor outlined its new Choice Advantage channel program during its semi-annual conference in Philadelphia last month. Choice Advantage allows resellers to choose their own level of participation through three levels: Independent Choice, Active Choice and Professional Choice. The program is designed to be a new channel model that gives resellers greater control over how they do business with the distributor and could lead to copycat programs from other distributors.

While a pilot program was rolled out to 700 North American solution providers, the program has only been formally launched in the U.S. to date. Ingram Micro Canada is waiting for the results of the pilot program before making any decisions. Still, there will likely be a lot of interest from resellers at the distributors annual VTN Conference in Quebec this month, hoping to hear word of any upcoming program changes.

GE Access is also upgrading its channel support with the announcement of a Multi-Platform Support (MSP) program. This will allow resellers to combine multi-platform services into one contract and sell additional services on multiple platforms. The program will commence June 1.

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