Tech Data Canada signs Apple

Greg Myers, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Tech Data Canada.

Greg Myers, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Tech Data Canada.

Visitors to the recent stops of distributor Tech Data’s Business Builder Tour may have caught a surprise vendor attendee. Apple was on hand, showing off a variety of its computer and tablet offerings.

While historically Apple has worked with other distributors in Canada, including Ingram Micro and Synnex, it has not been a vendor partner for Tech Data. But that has clearly changed.

Greg Myers, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Tech Data Canada confirmed to that the distributor will now distribute all of Apple’s wares except the iPhone, “and that we’re thrilled to have them.”

Myers declined to discuss the distributor’s plans and goals with the Apple business, but the recent history of both Tech Data Canada and Apple provide some potential clues as to why the deal may make sense for both parties right now.

Historically, Tech Data Canada has not been terribly involved in the retail space, although that changed a year ago, with the introduction of Wendy Franklin as director of mobility and retail and a renewed focus on the space. A year in, the retail business is ramping up quite nicely for Tech Data Canada. And Apple certainly has significant presence at retail.

But is the deal with Tech Data about having another distributor for the retail space? In part, perhaps. But Apple is already well-distributed in the retail space in Canada, and an increasing percentage of its retail business in this country is conducted through its own Apple Store locations at malls across Canada. So instead of looking to Tech Data Canada’s new opportunity, we can probably look to its traditional stronghold in the commercial business for the keys to the new Apple relationship.

About a year ago, Apple hooked up with IBM on a deal aimed at increasing the presence of Apple’s mobile devices in the enterprise space. The deal showed that Apple’s on again, off again relationship with business was on the upswing, and perhaps taking on more importance than ever for the Cupertino, Calif.-based vendor.

And if Apple sees more opportunity in the business space, it stands to reason that its equally on again, off again relationship with the commercial channel would be heating up as well. As much as Apple might try to meet the needs of small business customers through retail-centric plans like its Joint Venture effort, and the pact with Big Blue may help to address the high end of the enteprrise market, there’s still a big piece of the high end of SMB and the midmarket that is not likely to buy retail, or to be on the direct Apple/IBM list of things to do.

That market segment is also the area best served through the VAR channel, and therefore through distribution. And while Ingram Micro and Synnex can certainly support those efforts, bringing on additional distribution help here makes a lot of sense, if, in fact, Apple is serious about courting the channel this time around.

Talking to Apple partners can be an interesting experience. Like much of the community that surrounds the vendor, its partners in the space tend to be unapologetic fans of the company’s technology. But if you get them talking about what Apple is like to work with as a partner, the conversation quickly shifts to not-so-glowing terms. Apple can be difficult and frustrating to work with on a number of levels, including its requirements of solution providers and the support and communications they solution providers get from the vendor, partners will tell you.

As previously mentioned, Apple has an interesting relationship with the channel. Were Apple and the channel a Facebook couple, their relationship status would most likely be “It’s complicated.” Increased presence at distribution, which is just about as unambiguous in its channel orientation and service as any organization in the industry could be, could be a first step to making things smoother for its current and future partners as it sees greater opportunity in the channel’s sweet spot.