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Itronix wants partners

The rugged mobile computer manufacturer is looking to build its presence in Canada through channel partners that have a niche play in vertical markets and geographies

Since setting up its Canadian subsidiary 18 months ago, Itronix has signed 25 channel partners and is looking to add more, particularly in Ontario and the Western provinces

In order to be successful in Canada, Itronix has been careful about which customers it pursues and the VARs it works with, said Matt Gerber, senior vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing at Spokane, Wash.-based Itronix.

“We’ve made it harder to sign up as a partner because as we grow the business, we know we can’t afford to stumble,” said Gerber.

Despite the regimented approach to building its system builder, ISV and reseller base here, Gerber said the Canadian business is forecasting revenues in the “double digit millions next year.”

Susan Craven, general manager of Mississauga, Ont.-based Itronix Canada, said the company is looking for partners that have a unique niche in either a vertical market or specific geography.

“We have minimal coverage in Ontario,” she said, “and we would also like to expand further into Alberta and B.C.”

“Alberta is booming with the oil industry and our products fit really well in that space,” she added.

Itronix was acquired a year ago by General Dynamics but continues to operate as an independent commercial entity within GD’s computing technologies group, C4 Systems.

The Itronix line of products include the fully and semi-rugged GoBook series of notebooks, Tablet PCs and handheld mobile computing solutions.

“We put computers in the hands of people you wouldn’t normally expect – could be a soldier in the battlefield in Iraq, an RCMP mountie or a Telus field service worker,” said Gerber.

The company’s expansion into Canada coincided with its win of a three-year exclusive agreement with the RCMP to deploy 1,500 of the rugged GoBook III notebooks.

And though Craven remained tight-lipped about the details, she confirmed that the Canadian military is also using Itronix equipment.

Competitive margins

Software development, staging and installation of equipment, systems integration, ongoing service and support as well as service level agreements are fruitful margin opportunity areas for partners, said Gerber.

“Typically partners see 20, 30 and in some cases 40 per cent margins on those kinds of services,” he said. “The hardware also offers higher margins than typical commodity products.”

John Adams, president of Calgary-based Convergent Information Systems (CIS) is happy with the margins his company is making with Itronix products. CIS has been an Itronix partner for four years and Adams said the organization was “responsive to sales and support needs,” even prior to its presence in Canada.

“With the added focus here, we’ve seen a broader recognition of Itronix in the marketplace,” he said. “From a mobile computing standpoint, we are seeing its influence, Itronix has had significant wins.”

Adams said CIS was directly involved in a recent win that replaced Panasonic for the municipal computing requirements at the city of Calgary.

“We’re looking for partners that can handle the complexity of the system and understand the long sales cycle,” said Craven.

She added that typically Itronix requires potential partners to put together a demo system and show a customer how the software works with the hardware, allowing the user to recognize the full benefit of the device.

Craven is looking to refine the channel list and “in a year, I’m hoping the list is larger.”

Itronix is also seeking Canadian distribution of its products but has yet to go into discussion with broadline distributors here.

First, “we want to make sure we’ve got partners that can add value to us and we to them.”