Last week, Apple completed a significant pruning of its extensive reseller network by "deauthorizing" about one-third of its 3,600 U.S. dealers, retailers, and value-added resellers. In addition, Apple cut more than half its authorized service providers in the U.S. Apple’s rationale was to focus on the dealers and service providers who do a good job at promoting the Macintosh. By making the cuts, Apple significantly reduced the costs associated with coordinating resellers and service providers.
Although I’m sure Apple terminated some dealers who didn’t deserve to be deauthorized, on the whole, I think this move makes sense. When I searched Apple’s Dealer Locator to see how many dealers were in the Seattle area, I realized that I’d never heard of five of the eight businesses listed despite having lived in Seattle for seven years while participating in the local Macintosh users’ group the entire time. None of those five specialized in the Mac, whereas two of the three I did recognize were marked as Apple Specialists.
The fact that the resellers I hadn’t heard of weren’t marked as Apple Specialists is potentially telling. It’s possible that these businesses were in part using their Apple authorization to attract customers, who they then steered toward PCs – I’ve heard numerous reports of this happening in the computer superstores Apple dropped earlier this year (see "Apple in 1998: Retreat or Focus?" in TidBITS-416).
Even if these computer stores aren’t using the Macintosh as bait, removing them from the mix of possible Apple dealers isn’t a bad thing. When a store sells both Macs and PCs, at best they won’t care which machine an individual or business wants to buy, and they’re unlikely to offer the same level of knowledge and service as a store that focuses on the Mac. In the end, that’s what all this is about – helping Apple focus its resources on those resellers who in turn focus on the Macintosh.