Tech Data’s Channel Link conference was the backdrop for an overview of the distributor’s mobility offering and the story of one VAR’s success.
By James E. Gaskin
October 15, 2013
“Our Tech Data strategy is that the data center, cloud, and mobility all work together with each other in terms of where the market is heading,” says Joe Qualia, Tech Data Corp. senior vice president, U.S. marketing and president, TDMobility. “My biggest surprise is I didn’t expect the smartphone to outsell the PC in units.”
Perhaps that surprise helped galvanize the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor to open its TDMobility services offering in cooperation with Brightstar. During Tech Data’s Channel Link conference in Anaheim, Calif., in mid-September, Quaglia talked about TDMobility.
Advertised as an “end-to-end mobility solution,” TDMobility services help resellers and their customers choose the right devices, configure them as needed, activate them with all the major carriers, and ship them directly to the customer if needed.
How does mobility work with the data center? “You sell a hundred tablets, you’ll need more storage,” says Quaglia.
As part of the distributor’s push into mobility, selling a hundred tablets is now a small order for Tech Data and TDMobility. In fact, the company sold more than $1 billion worth of tablets last year, and will exceed that considerably in 2013.
“We worked a project with a large pharmaceutical company that was building apps for their sales force,” says Quaglia. “We sold them 5,000 iPads, all activated by TDMobility and shipped to each location as needed.” And where did the sales gathered by the reps go? “The orders go to the cloud immediately,” bringing together all three of Quaglia’s strategy points from earlier.
TDActivate, the service that allows Tech Data to serve as the Master Agent for all major carriers, simplifies the process for resellers, and carriers pay a commission for each activation. Tech Data combines TDMobility, TDActivate, and TDWarranty in making the popular iPad much easier to sell profitably. The first major distributor to work so closely with Apple, Tech Data not only handles mobile device activation but also attaches optional AppleCare warranty certification to products.
Tom Bethel, operations manager at ACL Computers, a Maryland-based reseller in business for more than 20 years, says Tech Data’s programs have enabled him to boost Apple product purchases from about $800,000 last year to more than $2.5 million this year.
“You have to get a special exemption to attach AppleCare to a product you buy one at a time,” says Bethel. “Through Apple, you have to buy a minimum of 10 to get AppleCare certifications attached, and it can take weeks. With Tech Data, I can order a single iPad and get the AppleCare paperwork in just a few days.”
Doing more than 80 percent of its business with the government means small margins on already tight Apple margins, says Bethel. “With TDMobility, we get a $20 to $40 to $60 rebate per device and activation, which is more than I make from the hardware in most cases.”
Part of TDMobility is a program called CellManage to help alleviate the hassles of billing, deployment, asset tracking, and procurement of mobile devices. A special portal for the reseller, the customer, and the carrier simplifies billing and management.
“One of our customers received 27 bills each month for iPhones and tablets,” says Bethel. “It took him 20 hours per month to reconcile each device and each billing plan to each employee and each department.” With CellManage and TDMobility, the portal does all that work. “In addition, it tracks users and their plans to alert those going over their limits, and those who aren’t using their devices enough to justify a higher rate plan. They can drop down and save money.”
Quaglia sees no end to the excitement in the mobile device market, commenting that new projects in enterprises have mobility at the center of their new designs. “Monetization is starting in mobility and cloud solutions at a much faster pace than we thought. We haven’t scratched the surface yet. Look at wearables—the glasses and watches. Will the next thing be embedded?”