Bruce Claflin, chief executive at 3Com, has poured scorn on Dell's plans to sell networking products direct, claiming that the latter's direct marketing strategy for PC sales cannot apply to networking.
In an exclusive interview, Claflin told vnunet.com that 3Com will strengthen its channel strategy to compete with Dell.
"So much of networking is mission critical. We need to engage the channel as it brings enormous value which does not exist with Dell," he said.
Claflin added that the companies that will survive in the networking market are those tier-one suppliers that excel in quality, service and support. He claimed that Dell has no capabilities to be a tier-one supplier in networking.
The market overlap between the two companies is about 10 per cent, and Dell is targetting the very small business and home networking markets.
But Claflin warned that Dell is attacking a commodity market. "If it wants to compete in this space then fine - they'll have their head handed to them by the Taiwanese."
Buddy Ceronie, 3Com's UK head, claimed that its research showed that customers prefer to buy indirect as they want value and support from a high quality channel service.
Resellers pointed out that networking is much more than just fitting a switch into a cabinet.
Robin Newbury, managing director of 3Com reseller CSN, explained that technologies such as virtual local area networks and Gigabit Ethernet mean that networking is much more complex than buying equipment direct or through a catalogue.
"Direct sales and solutions sales are different things," he said. "There will be a market for direct sales but I wouldn't consider it a threat to value-added resellers in the channel."
But Dell hit back at suggestions that it would be a small player in networking. Gary Radburn, Server and PowerConnect product marketing manager said it was encouraged by the take-up of its networking products.
"This customer feedback, coupled with the fact the competition are identifying us as a more serious player in the market, encouraged us to roll PowerConnect out worldwide," he said.
"We are confident that our offering will prove as successful as it has been in the US over the past year," he added.
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