With steadily fierce competition in the smartphone and tablet markets and the recent launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook, Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX: RIM) is looking to gain channel partners in the coming year.
For RIM, it’s not about how many resellers it will target, but what kind. “We want to work with specific resellers,” says Chris Wright, the company’s director of IT channel sales. RIM doesn’t need more distribution, but rather strategy, he says.
The company has had its reseller program in Canada for about two years and already has an aggressive approach to recruiting partners. Currently, RIM has roughly 200 resellers in its network, according to Wright.
“Mobility is where the resellers need to be,” he says. “We’ve been singing this song for a while now.” The IT channel is very “network-centric,” Wright says. Since BlackBerry products are middleware- relying on networking- they are a natural fit for Canadian resellers, he says.
Depending on the BlackBerry product, margin potential is anywhere from five to 25 per cent, but it’s too difficult to predict numbers on the company’s latest offering, he says.
“It’s a phenomenal product,” he says of the PlayBook, since it has the DNA of a BlackBerry, but with a slew of similar products hitting the shelves continually, margin predictions are difficult. “You can imagine the competitive nature of that,” he says.
Despite highly critical reviews since the tablet’s launch, Wright remains confident the PlayBook will do well in both the consumer and business markets. “Our evolution is in front of us and if you see what we have built into the Playbook, it just is such a solid base from which to evolve,” he says.
“A ton of resellers are asking for the product,” Wright says, though not all of them will get it. RIM, he says, “needed to control the product access to understand how it will flow through the market.”
Toronto-based IT solutions provider OnX Enterprise Solutions Ltd. will be reselling the PlayBook, targeting the tablet at businesses, and as a managed services provider, the company seems to fit in well with RIM’s reseller vision. “The tablet phenomenon is going to be a catalyst for mobility and a managed solution,” Wright says.
“There’s a whole host of opportunity in application development and custom applications. We don’t get a lot of airtime about that,” he adds. “It’s not one of those things that’s in the public eye.”
“We really like solution-selling type VARs,” Wright says. RIM is offering opportunities for partners looking to sell Alt-N Technologies services, one of its subsidiary companies that creates messaging solutions aimed at small and medium-sized businesses.
One of the newer partner opportunities is also for BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS), a unified communication add-on the company developed after acquiring Ascendent Systems Inc. in 2006. Resellers have only been able to sell the service for about eight months.
“RIM originally took desktop email and pushed it into your hand,” he says. MVS is similar, but takes desktop phone calls and pushes it to your handset with full attributes, including extension dialing and conference calling. “We need partners that understand the PBX environment,” he says. “We need the channel.”