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Best Buy Does Small Biz

TVs, Stereos, Washing Machines… and IT Services?
You knew it was coming, and now it's here. Best Buy -- household name, retail giant, corporate monolith -- is now one of your competitors. Big time. The purveyor of all that is electronics and appliances has certified 300 Microsoft Certified Professionals and plans to have an army of 900 MCPs in place by the end of the year. And the retailer is aiming squarely at the sweet spot of the market -- small (often very small) and medium-sized businesses. Worried? Maybe you should be.

Everybody knows Best Buy. Its image is everywhere, and it's surely going to pump major money into marketing its Best Buy for Business initiative, which is what the new biz-oriented effort is called. The retailer has a huge customer list and the distinct advantage of having a captive audience of small-business owners dropping into its stores to buy other stuff. You can hear the pitch now: "Need anything else to go with that Best of Foghat CD? How about an Exchange Server implementation?" How could it miss?

Then again, maybe you shouldn't be worried. After all, as much as Best Buy will try to leverage its retail prowess to draw customers to its business services, its retail presence can have a negative effect, too. Every time a blue-shirted, run-of-the-mill employee ticks off a potential business customer in a Best Buy store -- and, let's face it, it happens -- that's one customer lost to a more "traditional" Microsoft partner. Plus, as a big retailer, Best Buy is beset with problems of employee turnover. Now, supposedly, that won't be as big a problem among the professional MCP set as it is among the high-school-and-college, blue-shirt set. And, Best Buy is working hard to differentiate its biz-services folks from the people who sell car stereos. But, in the long run, it's hard to have it both ways -- the negatives of being a retail giant might just eventually outweigh the positives.

The success of Best Buy for Business will depend on how well the effort gets off the ground. The money, the marketing, the MCPs and the image (for better or worse) are all there. What matters now is execution. What we're seeing now is the real coming-out party for Best Buy for Business after years of planning. If the retailer gets it right, with competent experts serving satisfied customers and bringing new business in through retail stores, the whole thing could be a huge headache for existing partners. Then again, if Best Buy fails to execute in the business space the way it has in the retail space, there might be money to be made by partners in cleaning up the messes left by failed Best Buy for Business projects. Either way, that Foghat CD is worth it for "Fool for the City" alone.

How are you preparing for Best Buy's entry into your territory? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Read about Best Buy's newly minted MCPs here. And check out the cover story of our June issue here.

Now, If It Will Just Come Out
Microsoft last week revealed the minimum system requirements for Vista. How exciting! We now know what we'll need to run the OS that might or might not ever appear… well, maybe that's a bit unfair, but it would be nice to be able to start preparing for Vista with more certainty about its release date than we currently have.
http://rcpmag.com/news/article.aspx?editorialsid=7459

A couple of weeks ago, I asked how Vista delays affected you. Jerry wrote to tell me that, for him, it's been more of a financial problem than a customer problem:

"The Vista delay will not directly affect our business, but it has affected us financially because we lost 15 percent on our investment in Microsoft stock due to the reaction that many investors had when Microsoft told them that Vista was delayed again. One thing investors love is when a company does exactly what it says, and many people were looking forward to this new product. I just believe that it would be great for Microsoft if it could get Vista working ahead of its schedule. Right now it seems there are two main things people are watching: 1) How Microsoft makes out with the EU court case and, 2) How soon can Microsoft come out with Vista and how well will it work? We are still holding on to our Microsoft stock and believe that Bill Gates will use his resources to get the job done and that all Microsoft stockholders will get a fair return on their investments because without them there would be no Microsoft."

Amen, Jerry, and hang in there -- this thing has to come out eventually. Thanks for your e-mails.

Anybody else have thoughts about Vista delays? You know where to send 'em: lpender@rcpmag.com

"People Don't Throw Their Panties at Me"
Linus, you probably don't want most people in this industry throwing their underwear at you, anyway… Fantastic Finn Linus Torvalds delivers his Nordic wisdom about life, love and Linux -- well, OK, about Linux -- in this interesting little CNN interview.

And speaking of open source, John wrote to me from all the way down in New Zealand, the world's greatest rugby nation, to share his thoughts on the grassroots movement that is open-source software. John's a happy OpenOffice user, by the way:

"When I load and show people OpenOffice and the fact that it will open and save all their Word and Excel files without any problems and they see the interface of the program, they are quite happy to use it and figure out any differences there are from what they are used to. I find that most users don't need or want all the extra bells and whistles that come with using [Microsoft Word].

"I haven't used Linux yet myself but plan to start using it with a view to supporting it as well in the very near future as some of my clients either have a computer with it on or have their computers dual booting so they can use either (Linux or Windows). My oldest son is halfway through a programming degree, and he does most of his work on Linux computers. In fact, if my understanding is correct, a lot of the people at the university doing programming are either using Linux for everything or using both. There are not many that use only Microsoft products. Except for games."

John, you're not the first to tell me that Microsoft packs way more functionality into its applications than most users need. Thanks for your e-mails and best of luck to the All Blacks in the June test matches.

Have anything to add to John's comments? Use that address: lpender@rcpmag.com

Sue-Mantec Takes Microsoft to Court
Yawn… another lawsuit targeting Redmond. This time it's Symantec making everybody's lawyers richer. Is it too late to head back to law school?
http://rcpmag.com/news/article.aspx?editorialsid=7455.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 22, 2006 at 11:53 AM


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