For most of the decade before Apple realised the power of having a major retail presence, pretty well any computer reseller could be an ‘Apple Dealer’ simply by keeping an up-to-date demo Mac in their showroom. Apple gave their dealers a lovely logo to use on stationery and advertising along with signs and window stickers to promote this title, and boxes of leaflets and POS materials.
If a reseller was a specialist in a vertical market like photography – as I was – Apple then granted ‘Channel Partner’ status. But best of all, for larger resellers who only sold Apple computers and had a demo showroom full of Macs, Apple would award the lofty accolade of Apple Centre.
But since the Apple Store arrived to start building a direct-sales dominated Apple channel, resellers have had to work much harder to get accredited. Now they can set-up their own high profile Apple Store look-a-like retail premises, and they will be called an Apple Premium Reseller (APR). Apple Channel Partners have become Apple Solutions Experts (ASE), and Apple Centres? Well, they’ve disappeared completely.
As for the many hundreds of Apple dealers, many disappeared when Apple introduced Authorised Reseller status and raised the qualifying bar considerably, but even this title was quietly killed off by Apple last year. This now means that if you’re a company selling Apple systems without a suitable retail premises to be an APR store, you’re selling only Macintosh solutions but without the vertical-market focus to qualify as an ASE, and you have demo room with plenty of up-to-date machines, then you no longer fit any of Apple’s reseller accreditations.
And now there’s a new title just getting off the ground in the UK and throughout Europe – the Apple Consultants Network (ACN). ACN has been running in the USA and Canada for the past 15 years, so it’s been a long time arriving here.
Apple wants to build a dedicated network of individuals and small support companies who have achieved the highest qualifications in training and technical knowledge of the Mac, managing Apple systems and networks, and who want to support Apple users from major corporates right down to home users.
On the face of it, this scheme is a winner. It will allow an army of independent Apple experts with little chance of otherwise achieving recognition from Apple for their professional services, to finally receive an accreditation which fits their abilities, market position and dedication to the Mac platform. Plus, Apple itself says it will be calling on this network to assist with the field support of all those people buying direct from Apple or through APR stores.
This could be just what the channel needs.