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Cisco makes three courting SMBs

Last week it was Cisco Systems’ turn to court SMBs. The networking giant, which has had its head in the enterprise with UCS, used its annual Cisco Partner Summit to talk up the importance of the SMB market.

Every year or so we start hearing the vendors talk about how sadly underserved this segment is by IT. Of course Cisco, like HP, IBM and other tech vendors, says VARs are the primary entry point into these tech-starved small and medium sized businesses.

 Well, it’s that time again. Just as Cisco Summit kicked off, Hewlett-Packard, perhaps hoping to pre-empt , announced new perks for VARs selling to SMBs on Tuesday. That was just a few days after HP talked about changes to the way HP will dole out market development funds (MDF). Both of those tidbits come a full month before HP’s big Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas.

Even before that, IBM did its own SMB song-and-dance last month, although IBM really does focus on the “M” part of the SMB population and pretty much leaves the mom-and-pop shops to other vendors.

This is all pretty much the normal ebb-and-flow of the vendor hype cycle. Every year or so after spending millions (billions?) selling into the same big, old Fortune Whatever companies, they realize that SMBs represent a huge, less-tapped market for their PCs, servers, routers, software.

Then they ramp up the machine, talk about how much they love VARs and then things pretty much go back to normal before the next cycle kicks in.

So here are the two things that kept gnawing away at me during this, most-recent flurry of press.

First: How hard is it for vendors  to realize they need to streamline and simplify their portal so that small businesses really can find what they’re looking for and (hopefully) the VARs to help them with the purchase and/or implementation? Seems like this is table stakes and it should have happened long ago.

Second: Why do vendors insist on segregating the buying public as in: “SMBs buy from VARs” and “Fortune Whatever companies buy direct?” Don’t you think VARs are in those big accounts?  Think again.

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