Apple Continues Quest for Channel Chief

Anyone thinking Apple is simply going to wade its way into the channel may want to rethink that position. Yesterday, news broke that Apple was able to steal a Hewlett-Packard executive to run its British Isles channel, and there are continued rumblings that Apple is looking for star power in a person to run its global channel program.

The Register reported yesterday that Apple appointed Trevor Evans, a HP Personal Systems Group channel sales director, to run its nascent channel efforts in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Evans, a well-known HP channel leader on the other side of the pond, was on leave when his resignation came. He’s expected to start at Apple in January.

On this side of the pond, Apple is continuing its methodical search for a channel executive star to build and run its global business channel program. Recruiters have been knocking on the doors and ringing the phones of some of the best known channel executives and major vendors, looking for a person with proven channel experience, a record of results and marketability.

From what channel chiefs tell Channelnomics, the person Apple is looking for is not just someone who can build a channel program, but lend immediate credibility to Apple’s channel efforts and ambitions.

Apple needs a strong channel leader, given its apathetic and cloistered approach to channel relationships.

Solution providers tell Channelnomics that Apple is notoriously difficult to even contact about becoming a partner. Even as Apple pursues channel development, its partner application page carries a notice saying it’s not accepting applications.

Those select solution providers that have broken through the “iWall” describe a review and approval process that’s laborious and expensive. One solution provider tells Channelnomics that it applied to become an iPad reseller. Apple first made it go through a process of selling Mac desktops. It wasn’t able to sell iPads until it had reached a certain threshold for desktop sales.

Apple is making significant efforts to reach the channel. It’s recently kicked off a mobility training program with HTG Peer Groups. And earlier this year it contracted with OnForce to provide professional services and support to SMBs buying PCs and tablets through Apple stores. What’s interesting is how Apple restricts its development and service partners from talking about these engagements; those who partner with Apple are subject to strict confidentiality terms that come with severe penalties for violations. That doesn’t bode well for the channel, which is quite chatty about experiences and efforts with vendors.

The entry of Apple in the channel shouldn’t come as a surprise. Businesses have steadily increased adoption and support of Apple products as users demand Macs, iPhones and, increasingly, iPads, in the workplace. Many major vendors, such as Juniper Networks and Intel, have long offered employees the option of a Mac or Windows PC. Apple has always serviced the business market, even if it only wants to talk about consumer sales.

Yet it’s the consumer sales the pose the problem for Apple.  The continued success of the iPad and iPhone means Apple will soon reach saturation in some markets. That means it will have a harder time getting people to buy its products as older products remain serviceable.

The business market serviced by the channel is a potentially lucrative opportunity for Apple. IT decision-makers want the ease of use and lower total cost of ownership that comes with many Apple products. And, users’ desire for Apple means they will drive businesses to drive adoption.

HP CEO Meg Whitman has already indicated that Apple could become the leader in computer sales in 2012, if tablets are counted. If that happens, Apple will also likely top HP and IBM as the world’s largest technology company by gross revenue.

While this is bad news for PC manufacturers, it’s good news for practically all other vendors that can operate independently of the specific endpoint operating system. Security vendors such as SonicWall and WatchGuard have announced new products that protect iOS devices; A whole new segment of mobile device management is springing up in the channel; and networking, storage and virtualization vendors will be able to sell around Apple products.

What Apple needs is a strong channel leader and a well-rounded channel program to build the relationships with complementary vendors and solution providers to drive rapid adoption through the channel.

Channelnomics knows the names of a few channel chiefs Apple’s been talking with, but we’re keeping mum for now. Suffice to say, the short list will be very short given Apple’s stringent criteria.

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5 Responses to “Apple Continues Quest for Channel Chief”

  • Ben Williams:

    What does “channel” mean, here? I have no idea what you are talking about! Please explain. We are not all marketing droids.
    “Apple is making significant efforts to reach the channel.”
    “Apple is simply going to wade its way into the channel.”
    “Apple is continuing its methodical search for a channel executive.”

    • By “channel” we’re talking about the recruitment and engagement of reseller partners in business to business sales. Where Walmart is a retail partner reselling to consumers, B2B partners sell to businesses. Make sense?

  • quasimodo:

    Apple’s brief for some time has been to destroy the channel. They regard their channel partners as fair game and actively seek to divert their sales to the Apple store online and on the ground. Apple demands that service clients’ email addresses are entered into the service database and then canvasses these clients with special offers through the apple store that cannot be matched by channel resellers. They have discontinued and recalled packaged software and thereby diverted all software sales to themselves directly. They restrict supply of ipads and iphones to the channel using all manner of bogus requirements. Apple’s products are by and large great. The company, however is venal, malicious, litigious and greedy beyond belief. They seem to be run by a dire combination of marketing and bean counting people who wouldn’t know an enduser from a lamppost and who talk in terms of individual units of sale. Here’s to the crazy ones grabbed everyone as an inspiring mission statement. To the prevailing management it’s just another marketing slogan to sucker in the punters. The most common statement about Apple that we hear from clients over and over again is “love the products, hate the company!”

  • Doug Woodburn:

    Hi Larry

    Interesting story.

    Just to point out, it was us – CRN UK ( – who broke the news about Trevor Evans leaving HP to join Apple yesterday, not the Register! Their story was up several hours after ours was. This happens quite a lot to us as the Reg tend to phrase things like they’ve broken the news in instances when they’ve been beaten to the punch.

    Look forward to seeing how the Apple channel situation develops in the US.


    Doug Woodburn
    Deptuy Editor
    CRN UK

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