For those of us who have worked in the Apple reseller channel for more than ten years, this should actually come as no surprise. We watched the growth of Apple's direct sales to education and major corporate users, we witnessed the birth of the Apple Store online, and then stood in awe as Apple opened those temples to Macintoshdom, the retail Apple Stores.
More recently, the larger, long established Apple resellers have embraced Apple's retail-cloning policy by opening Apple Premium Reseller stores in the bigger cities around the country, some of them ending up rather too close to Apple's own stores.
But underpinning this mix of larger resellers who sell and support Macs are the ranks of hundreds of smaller Apple dealers with no retail presence. Many of them with showrooms have been through the process of gaining recognition by Apple and are therefore 'authorised' to sell Apple products. But most are not, and many of these non-authorised companies are run by people with more experience and technical expertise than those with Apple's accreditations.
The Mac Technology Association was created to recognise and assist these non-recognised dealers, especially if they are seeking advice on how to cross over that line from simply selling and supporting Macs to gaining Apple UK's official recognition and accreditation for playing this important role.
About a month ago, I received an email from a long-established and successful Apple dealer, a long-standing member of this association, who wanted to finally take that step of becoming Apple-authorised. They have been selling Macs sourced through distribution for over ten years with no recognition from Apple UK, and their business has been growing steadily with a well-established client base of regular and new customers for hardware and services. And they do have the all-important, albeit small, demonstration showroom.
So six months ago they decided to make it official. They spoke to their chosen distributor about becoming an Apple Authorised Reseller, and were told Apple UK would contact them. But nobody did.
Months passed, so they tried to call Apple UK directly a number of times, and were told someone would contact them. But nobody did.
Finally they contacted us to ask what was going on. I took a look at their location and their business, and their current client profile. They are in a large town approximately twenty miles from one of England's major cities, and most of their clients are in that city. The city does have an Apple Premium Reseller, but no other 'authorised' Apple dealers are in the area. Their application should be a formality.
But sadly it's not. It now appears that Apple UK are not accepting any new Authorised Reseller applications from any companies within 25 miles of an Apple Store or an Apple Premium Reseller store, unless the application is for Apple Authorised Service Provider (AASP) status, or is for qualifying as one of Apple's 'Solution Expert' accreditations.
To become an AASP requires serious investment in technical workshop facilities and fully certified engineers, and 'Solutions Expert' status means reinventing your business away from offering general Mac support to focus solely on a specialist vertical market in your region.
But does this change in attitude to the channel reflect Apple's official line? No. But I'd be interested to know if any other Apple dealers have been turned down for Authorised Reseller status in the past year, or simply had their application ignored.