After tenderly sticking a toe into the whitebook manufacturing business for its resellers, Tech Data Canada is putting some muscle behind its offering.

The distributor has launched an online configuator for its off-brand laptops to make it easier for VARs to order.

Since the program

began in December, resellers had to phone, fax or e-mail orders to the company, said David Spindler, Tech Data’s director of business development and e-commerce. But because there were many possible configurations orders couldn’t be processed until it could be confirmed the combinations would work.

“”We were testing the waters,”” he said.

The online configuator reduces some of the options into tested bundles, he said.

“”We’ve included all the things that customers ask for, but done in a way we know all the components will work together.””

The laptops are based on chassis from Compal Electronics’ Canadian subsidiary, Bizcom Electronics, and assembled at Tech Data Canada’s Mississauga, Ont. headquarters.

“”With the backing of Compal and Intel I think we’re going to take the world by storm,”” Spindler said.

The idea is to give Tech Data Canada members access to a competitive whitebook offering to brand-name laptops, just as the distributor has in the whitebox market with a build-to-order arrangement for PCs and notebooks with Seanix Technology.

However, not all resellers are embracing the idea. Dave Moore of Vancouver’s Compuplan Computer Systems said his company is strictly an HP reseller. “”We have no interest in that part of the marketplace,”” he said in an interview. “”We make no money on the whitebox marketplace at all.””

So far the Compal deal is unique to Canada: Tech Data’s U.S. parent hasn’t moved into the whitebook market yet.

Nor has its biggest rival, Ingram Micro Canada. “”Based on direct reseller feedback received in a (2003)survey, the price-points of warrantied, high quality configurations and the current whitebox go-to-market channels, we decided not to pursue the market at that time,”” said David Walsh, Ingram Micro Canada’s vice-president of marketing. “”Over the balance of 2004, we will continue to evolve our product and customer strategies, which may lead us to offering specific products and/or peripherals supplied by generic brand manufacturers,”” he added.

The Tech Data whitebooks – which resellers can brand as their own – come in four categories: light, value, performance and portable power.

The portable power CY30 series starts at a reseller’s price of $1,418.97 with a 15-inch XGA screen, a Pentium 4 2.4 GHz processor, 256 MB of RAM, a 20Gb hard drive, a 24x CD drive, a floppy disk and Windows XP Home Edition. Options include a choice of three Pentium 4 processors, eight hard drives, DVD-CDR combos, a WiFi LAN and longer warranties.

The light AT23 series weighs 5.5 lbs. (2.5 Kgs). The standard model comes with a 14.1-inch screen, 64 Mb of video memory, a combo DVD-CDRW optical drive and starts at $1,739.80. It offers a choice of six Pentium M processors and nine hard drives up to 80 gigabytes.

The value CL51 model offers a five-hour battery life and screens of 14.1- or 15-inches.

There are two performance models: The CL50 has a 15-inch screen, Pentium M processors, an ATI Mobility 9000 graphics engine with 64 MB of video memory and a five-hour battery. The CL56 offers faster Pentium M CPUs and an ATI chip with 128 MB of memory.

All models come with a one year warranty from W3 Solutions, which can be extended to three years for an extra charge.

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