Intel TP1Amid the consumer electronic buzz and excitement at Intel Solutions Summit 2011 in Las Vegas, The VAR Guy found a solid gold chip of channel news. Feb. 28, 2011, marked the first day of Intel's new Technology Provider Program, which aims to consolidate the once separate Intel Channel Partners (system builders and integrators) and Intel Technology Providers (branded resellers) into one family, all under the moniker of Intel Technology Providers. The VAR Guy wonders, Is this a good idea for the channel? Read on for some perspective ...

The consolidation is the result of what Intel is calling an "evolution" of its partner program into one that is more flexible and inclusive of all business models. It also aims to be easier to understand while providing better branding of end customers. While there are modifications to the training requirements, existing partners need not worry -- Intel has modified their requirements for a moving up inside the channel program to protect and recognize existing training and/or the need for training.

The VAR Guy was privy to a meeting with Steve Dallman, VP of sales and marketing at Intel Worldwide, and CJ Bruno, Intel's VP of sales and marketing for North America, for a deeper dive on the program.

Apparently, Intel was listening to partner feedback -- which included a healthy dose of criticism, Dallman said -- and took the comments to heart. Dallman, for his part, said he had been approached multiple times by partners who were unhappy that they no longer could qualify for Premier Partner status with Intel because their business direction had changed, or they had been selling an ever-greater number of Intel components but Intel's level of engagement with them had been limited.

"… It's silly for us to distinguish between [beige] box and CPU resellers. They're all Intel technology," Bruno said.

But what about the potential for channel conflict with the new, combined program? Dallman said Intel would be "keeping statuses" and not "screwing around" with its largest customers, but stressed that channel conflict would not be an issue since "partners trust us." He also noted the program would become more specialized down the road.

Bruno's summary of the program: "Are you delivering [Intel] technology? You're in the program. Partner levels expand as the partner's audience expand."

Intel TP2The Intel Technology Provider Program features a revamped partner portal, and the new tiered levels -- Registered, Gold, and Platinum -- will be rolling out as the year goes on. Existing channel members will be moved to the corresponding membership levels for 2011, but no partners can rest on their laurel: Partners will need to meet new membership criteria to be considered for a higher membership level during 2011, or to maintain existing level during 2012 renewals.

During the keynote, Intel CEO Paul Otellini noted in a recorded segment that "The channel remains our largest customer [with] over 20 percent of our business." The VAR Guy believes Intel's channel players are sincerely interested in fixing Intel's channel program, but the proof is in the process. The VAR Guy will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the new program to determine whether it really forces change within Intel or is nothing more than a duct tape solution.

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