No April Fools joke for Apple reps

An Apple reseller says some VARs are incensed and feel abandoned by Apple Canada’s decision to remove three channel representatives who handled resellers and distributors in western, central and eastern regions of the country.

The removal of the channel reps has “”ticked off a lot of

people,”” said Kevin David, general manager of Oakville-based Canadian Computer.

“”These people make it a lot easier for us to deal with Apple. Now we’re on our own, essentially.””

David said he’d spoken to three or four dealers and “”we all think the same thing, which is we’re not happy campers about this.””

“”I understand that Apple has to run a business and make money and downsizing is a part of that,”” he said. “”But a little reassurance for the reseller community would go a long way to making us feel better.””

Ron Paley, president of Toronto-based Carbon Computing said he is also grappling to understand the situation. “”I’m baffled why they took this move but I have my own business to run. Maybe they have a brilliant thing that’s coming down the pipe.””

Their comments were prompted by an internal memo that went out to Apple direct resellers and distributors on March 31, which starts: “”Apple Canada wishes to inform you that we have re-structured some of our operations this morning March 31, effective immediately.””

The memo also said that Mary Percat, currently channel strategy manager at Apple Canada, has accepted the position of national sales manager, resellers. Percat declined several requests for an interview, offering the following written statement instead: “”Apple has had some minor staff reductions in the normal course of business, but our overall headcount worldwide continues to grow. Apple Canada remains strongly committed to its resellers and will continue to work closely with them to meet the evolving needs of our customers.””

Apple, however, would not answer any follow up questions. CDN asked Apple if the move meant it will cut support to the VAR recruitment program, an initiative announced last year to recruit new resellers in enterprise and storage markets. CDN also asked if the job cuts in any way reflect what Apple Corp. is doing in the U.S., where the company has beefed up its direct sales force and has retail stores that compete with resellers.

According to an article on the Think Secret ( Web site entitled: “”Apple issues revised contracts for independent dealers,”” the company is dealing with its U.S. resellers in a new way. The contracts permit Apple’s uneven product allocation under the terms of the agreement — an issue that was raised last year in a lawsuit against Apple on allegations from resellers there which include breach of contract, fraud, trade libel, unfair competition and false advertising. Those cases are still before the courts.

Uneven allocation has created situations where the company’s chain of Apple Stores in the U.S. has more quantities of stock than resellers have. While there aren’t any Apple retail stores in Canada, David said rumours that they are coming here have been circulating for three years. They were fanned by a February story on the Apple Insider Web site which cited unnamed sources saying the company has plans to launch at least two stores in the Toronto area.

David, who found out about the channel rep job cuts from Apple Insider Web site, said he thought it was a joke until he tried to e-mail one of the account executives.

“”Her e-mail bounced and we said, ‘Oh, this is real,'”” recalled David.

“”We have a very good relationship and we’re extremely upset that she’s gone.””

Paley said the reps were doing excellent jobs and had many years of experience.

“”These people were terrific assets to the industry and to Apple. I’ll miss them,”” said Paley, who was in contact with the central account executive weekly. “”They were all very personable and very knowledgeable. It will be extremely hard to replace the intimate knowledge they have for all their years of work.””

While the move’s long-term effects are difficult to gauge at this point, David said he is experiencing a lack of access to co-op marketing dollars that he used to go through his rep to get.

“”There’s been no clarification (from Apple) as to where that program is, how we access those funds and that holds up all of our advertising beyond what we’ve already submitted for this quarter,”” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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