Mitel’s acquisition of the Toshiba business is all about acquiring customers, and their channel. In order to protect their own Mitel channel partners, the two channels will, however, remain separate.
Mitel has completed its acquisition of Toshiba’s Unified Communications business, first announced in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two companies two months ago, on May 11. Mitel’s top priority is to reassure Toshiba’s customers, many of whom have been with Toshiba for years, that they will see no fall-off in support, and that they will have more flexible and advanced upgrade paths going forward. The channel angle is also significant however. Toshiba’s channel was very focused on Toshiba, had almost no overlap with Mitel’s channel, and are not all sure things to make the move to Mitel. Mitel knows it will have to win them over. On the other side, given that Toshiba has about 350 resellers, if a significant number do join Mitel, the company wants to protect its legacy partners. Accordingly, going forward the two channels will be run separately.
Mitel has acquired what it is terming ‘certain assets, inventory and support obligations’ from the Toshiba UC business. What that boils down to is Toshiba’s UCedge on-prem business, their VIPedge cloud products, a ‘key group’ – a term that suggests not all – of Toshiba sales, support and R&D employees connected to these businesses, and all their support obligations.
“They have a very solid platform,” said Mike Conlon, Vice President, North America Channel Sales at Mitel. “Their technology is sound. They have done a good job in the market for a lot of years. But they didn’t have a hybrid product at all. Now Toshiba customers have a great ability to transition into a real unified UC platform and company that is very stable and very well known. They can move flexibly from on-prem to hybrid or cloud.”
For Mitel, the deal has nothing to do with acquiring technology, although they will continue to provide support for the Toshiba products with a transition services agreement.
“It’s all about the customers and dealer community,” Conlon said. “The deal allows us to gain a customer base and a partner dealer base that had been loyal to Toshiba for multiple decades. These are customers and dealers that Toshiba has had for decades in many instances. We can provide them with a graceful transition and allow them to become a Mitel customer or dealer going forward.”
The Toshiba dealer channel is one which has largely been focused on Toshiba.
“This dealer channel has been very exclusive to Toshiba for multiple decades now,” Conlon said. “They are close to 350 in number and are very telephony-centric. They are all over the place in terms of size, from very small to large. There is very little overlap with the Mitel channel, based on the fact that most were exclusive to Toshiba. We hope that they will come over to us, but we know that we have to earn that right, and think it’s a question for many of coming over to us in time.”
Those that do come over to Mitel will be administered separately, in their own channel program, as the company has made a decision not to merge the programs.
“The plan is to keep them separate,” Conlon said. “We didn’t want to bring in 350 new Toshiba dealers, give them access to the Mitel solutions, and start commoditizing the market for partners who have invested in us. If a Toshiba dealer would like to sell traditional Mitel solutions, they can, but they would have to onboard from outside as a Mitel partner.”