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TechnologyProgrammingGive and take in corporate relationships

Give and take in corporate relationships

A few days back I went to an Intel marketing event that got me thinking about the differences in how various companies present themselves.

First off, this was a marketing event targeted to the reseller channel/system builder–you know, your local computer store. Most channel members have a lot in common with ISVs: typically small, service oriented, and eager to evolve creative ways to survive “competing” against billion dollar corporations with marketing budgets bigger than their yearly revenues. You give them something and they try to figure out how to make money from it.

You might wonder why Intel bothers with an event like this. After all, Dell is where the action is, right? Eh, kind of. It turns out that the growth has been coming from the channel. Yep, the channel has had a significant impact on Intel’s ballooning botton line. According to Intel, the channel helped lead them to their largest quarter of processor sales ever–more than the run up to Y2K, more than the dot com boom days.

Intel does a pretty good job communicating with the channel and they are quite energetic at these meetings. It’s a little rah-rah, but one thing that comes across is that Intel wants to help the channel make money. They give their views on where the opportunities are. They give the channel marketing materials. They give their suggested “talking points.” They give stories about survival and success. Talk to any of the presenters in person and they want to understand your needs and still give you more of what you need to succeed.

To me, the Intel event was a bit of a jolt, primarily because it came on the heals of PDC. First, let me say that PDC was well worth it. It’s probably one of the best tech conferences I’ve been to in terms of access to new technologies and the people involved in them. However, I did see a pattern in the offline discussions that left me a bit wandering in thought. I don’t think there was a single Microsoft employee that didn’t ask me at least once what Microsoft could do better. That’s fine. I’m glad Microsoft is listening. However, it wasn’t until the Intel channel event that I could see how the balancing “give” part gets lost. Maybe it’s just an issue of the areas I’m interested in. There was lots of IT-mindedness at PDC and I’m more of a core Tablet PC developer. And PDC was huge. I could easily have missed it. However, the contrast for me between Intel’s “here it is and how can we help you succeed” focus and Microsoft’s montra “here are some cools things we’ve done and what more ideas do you have for us” sticks in my brain.

And don’t get me wrong. I walked away from PDC with Longhorn, a handful of t-shirts, two free books I’ve found very useful, some great relationships, and more. No question I’d go to another PDC.

I have some more thoughts along these lines, but I’ll wait on them for now. I just wanted to point out an impression I had. It’s interesting to see how different corporations present themselves.

Loren Heiny (1961 - 2010) was a software developer and author of several computer language textbooks. He graduated from Arizona State University in computer science. His first love was robotics.

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