Someone asked this question the day the first piece of software was sold electronically. That was in the era of the bulletin board, long before the Internet reared its public head. I ran an extremely successful dealership for almost a decade. The most cynical thing that happened year in and year out was that hardware and software suppliers would come up and court you. Together, over a couple of years, you'd build up the sales, gradually growing some large and valuable accounts. Then suddenly, without notice, the manufacturer would switch to direct selling and keep all the money for himself.
The clients, irrespective of size, knew exactly what was going on and didn't trust the switch. They knew it would only last for a short period while times were rosy. Most manufacturers don't have the resources or staying power when times get hard. New products need explaining. End user problems pile up. The whole task becomes too expensive. Then they'd come back, hat in hand, and try and make up and then carry on as if nothing had happened.
As time has passed, hardware prices have come down dramatically so there is much less money than there was in distribution. Two-thirds of those who grew up on the back of the PC have shut down or become part of larger organizations. Those that remain, while by many measures larger, are naturally concerned about software manufacturers transferring completely to direct, Internet-based sales.
However, another type of distribution service has sprung up. It undertakes many of the tasks that manufacturers find irksome. These people sell consumables, mend equipment, and offer basic training. In a dynamic industry there are always opportunities for a smart new idea.
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