Mary Percat, Channel Manager Apple Canada

For Mary Percat, this past year has borne the fruit of her labour.

Percat, channel strategy and development manager for Apple Canada, has been instrumental in developing a new channel for Apple Canada and recruiting new VARs in enterprise and storage markets.

“”This has been a really cutting

year for all these product announcements and the growth of our products,”” said Percat.

At a time when many of Apple’s competitors are downsizing, she’s proud that Apple decided to invest rather than cut back.

“”A lot of manufacturers like ourselves have felt the pressure of the industry slump. They’ve chosen not to release new products or laid off thousands of people.””

Apple’s strategy was crafted about five years ago when the slump started.

The first iMac was targeted to Apple’s traditional professional markets including design and print as well as consumer markets.

Percat, who has watched Apple’s history throughout her 17-year career in the IT industry, says Apple’s channel reflected those types of products.

At the beginning of the year, Apple had a base of resellers who serviced its existing print and publishing market.

She, however, saw a need to develop a new channel and go after VARs with expertise in servicing the enterprise market.

“”From a products perspective, not only did we re-enter the enterprise market, we announced a whole host of new products that kept our product line looking very exciting.””

The Xserve, Xserve RAID and, more recently, Panther are three products on the server side that have allowed Apple to further its enterprise strategy.

Xserve RAID, a storage system, offers enhanced performance and competitive pricing.

“”The price points are so aggressive and the performance and value that an enterprise customer would get from these products is so significant we believe we slowly will see great success with these products over time,”” said Percat.

Xserve RAID’s UNIX operating systems allow Apple to talk to chief information officers (CIO) in very different contexts.

“”We can talk to CIOs about security as UNIX is the most stable and secure operating system,”” said Percat. “”We speak to CIOs’ key concerns given what’s happening in the world with terrorism, viruses and worms.””

One of Apple’s most recent product launches, Panther, the newest version of Macintosh’s OS X, also has UNIX underpinnings, making it easier to administrate both Mac and Windows systems on the same network, and therefore opening it up to a whole new market.

“”OS has a really robust functionality that’s eligible to the enterprise customer,”” said Percat.

Apple is planning to strengthen its new partners’ technical competency and get them authorized.

To be certified, Apple resellers must take two types of certification levels, Apple Certified Technical Co-ordinator (ACTC) and Apple Certified Systems Administrator (ACSA).

“”We require those two levels of certification to be able to resell the product because we feel there is some level of technical knowledge to sell and support the product.””

Another highly anticipated launch among Apple’s traditional markets was the G5, where Apple saw an opportunity to flex its marketing muscle.

“”We provided channel partners with a lot of training to deliver this, especially in the speed demos so they could see how much more a G5 smokes the G4.””

Looking back, Percat says with certainty that it was the right decision to enter these two markets.

“”We’re seeing very good success here and we have a lot of customers coming to us,”” she said. “”A few years ago, they would have shunned us.””

Despite Percat’s success in building a new channel for Apple in Canada, she admits that a major roadblock was talking to resellers about UNIX.

“”The challenge was for them to believe that the company is committed in this direction and that the products have the high level of functionality and value that they could be confident in,”” said Percat.

“”Once we overcame those, it was interesting how enthusiastic and supportive the new channel partners became.””

Percat found the latter the most rewarding aspect of it.

“”I wouldn’t say (it resuscitated) the company per se, but (for) those of us on the Canadian team it provided us a lot of internal excitement to see new players, commitment and resurgence in our channel.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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