After flat out denials from Research in Motion (TSX: RIM) that it was not killing off its Playbook tablet, the Waterloo, Ont.-based mobility pioneer today confirmed a U.S. distribution agreement with Tech Data Corp. (NASDAQ: TECD).
Under the terms of the agreement, Blackberry devices such as the Torch smartphone and Playbook tablet, along with software and technical support services, will be distributed to more than 60,000 value-added resellers. The agreement also allows Tech Data to support the end-to-end sale of BlackBerry solutions for small to mid-sized businesses through Tech Data’s new TDMobility offering operated by ActivateIT, a Tech Data and Brightstar Corp. joint venture company.
Bryan Lee, director of SMB and IT channels for RIM, said the Tech Data partnership will bring about much needed activation services through the TDMobility engine and now, solution providers are able to manage devices end-to-end, including billing, without having to partner with a carrier provider.
“This is a great opportunity for RIM to tap into 60,000 VARs that focus on a key market – SMB. With TDMobility offering activation services, resellers now can avoid the step of sending customers back to the carrier. They can make those transactions now, such as value plus services,” Lee said.
Activation services have been available in Canada through RIM’s other distribution partner Ingram Micro.
Long time Blackberry channel partner Tenet Computer Group of Toronto has been using Ingram for activation services, said Carlos Paz Soldan, the president of Tenet. By providing activation services, it opens up the market for solution providers and enables Tenet to focus more on the solution itself than activation.
“From my point of view, activation services for large projects provide better control of the process for us and for the customer. It also helps us better pre-load software,” Paz Soldan said.
Lee added that TDMobility creates an annuity revenue stream for solution providers as a managed service because of the ActivateIT’s Cell Manage platform. This platform simplifies deployments by offering consolidated billing.
Tech Data will also make available the Blackberry software stack including the Blackberry Enterprise Server 5 and Blackberry Mobile Voice System 5.1. RIM’s Voice over WiFi Calling and its Blackberry client for mobile access to Microsoft SharePoint will also be part of Tech Data’s portfolio.
RIM is also bolstering its channel marketing resources with this Tech Data arrangement as it will now offer resellers a channel portal for training, marketing collateral and access to Blackberry reseller rewards. The portal will also enable VARs to order Blackberry Enterprise Express.
Another addition is the RIM channel locator, which enables customers to find and connect with solution providers. The locator’s search tool will be based on geography and value added services.
Lee called the TDMobility offering an innovative approach and something RIM wanted to be a part of. “We are excited about sharing this with the all the resellers. TDMobility is at the forefront and we wanted our solutions to be a big part of that,” Lee said.
“Mobility is transforming many lines of business and our value added resellers are pulling in that direction and are asking us for these types of solutions. We want to tap into that network and respond to this community. We see it as a huge opportunity for them to leverage our solution.”
Lee was unable to provide margin details but said that he sees a great opportunity to make money off the software and services components.
Paz Soldan echoed Lee’s comments on margin, saying that if VARs are just looking into pushing out mobile technology, it will not be a great business for them especially up against the retailers. But if you provide expertise and the applications as a whole mobile solution for customers, then that is a successful concept.