NEC on the comeback trail

It’s back. And it’s not just dipping its toes into the water, but making a huge splash.

NEC, that is. Most of us remember NEC from what seems to be another computing era, but are surprised to find out the company is still around. And not only is it still around, but it’s thriving – at least in Asia and Europe. Its technology is used in everything from Nintendo Wii to automated fingerprint identification systems for law enforcement.

But, for various reasons, it’s faded off the radar screen in North America – of both customers and VARs. Now it’s hoping to get its brand back out there, and it’s doing that by signing on Synnex as its exclusive distribution partner here. And it has a new channel chief too, Steve DeBonis, for its newly formed IT Platform Group.

In the past, NEC worked with a select group of resellers, as well as niche distributors in the U.S. for specific product lines. But it never signed on any broadliners here. Well, there was a distribution deal with Avnet, but that hasn’t been active for some time now.

Interestingly, NEC has chosen to partner only with Synnex, and not other broadliners such as Ingram Micro or Tech Data. The reasoning behind this decision does make sense, though – the company doesn’t want to be one of many, but one of the few at the top.

NEC says it chose Synnex over other disties because it offers individualized attention – not to mention Synnex has been looking to expand its business in the enterprise space. Unlike some of its competitors, Synnex’s enterprise business is still maturing – so for NEC, it’s a way to get in and go straight to the top.

So Synnex will distribute NEC’s data centre, storage and disaster recovery products through skilled VARs. NEC also plans to put resources and infrastructure behind its channel strategy through a revamped ExpressPartner Program. Considering that most VARs don’t even realize that NEC offers these types of enterprise products – from virtual PC centres to modular storage arrays – this is a good move on its part.

So can NEC re-establish itself in the channel? Can it turn itself into a brand with the same recognition as IBM or HP? The advantage is that it’s not a startup. It’s been around, and it has a broad portfolio of proven technology. And, as an added bonus to VARs here in North America, there isn’t a lot of competition out there (since not many VARs are currently selling it), so margins could be a bit higher than usual.

Most importantly, though, is that the vendor is making a concerted effort to bring resellers on board, with the resources to back up the talk. Getting a well-known distributor signed on to round up those enterprise VARs could be critical to its success – and a key factor as to whether it gets its name back in the mainstream.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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