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Buy Local 3.0: This Time, There's Hardware

System builders in the Microsoft Partner Program now have something tangible to offer consumers and small businesses that are looking for new computers running Windows Vista.

In late January, Microsoft launched the 3.0 version of its Buy Local campaign, which is designed to help system builders land customers in their backyards. While previous versions of Buy Local gave customers free software and Web services, the new version is all about hardware.

"On prior versions of Buy Local, we had a lot of Web-based services or software offerings. Customers were saying, 'We'd love to have some hardware attached with some software features,'" says John Ball, general manager of the U.S. System Builders Group at Microsoft.

Now when customers search for local system builders using Microsoft's localpcbuilder.com Web site, they can print a coupon to take along to the shop.

Buyers of Windows Vista Home Premium get an Artec high-definition television tuner and a Kingston two-gigabyte hard drive that's ReadyBoost capable. Purchasers of Windows Vista Business receive a D-Link wireless pocket router and the Kingston USB drive. Those who select Windows Vista Ultimate get an Epson PictureMate Pal Personal Photo Lab along with the wireless pocket router, USB drive and TV tuner. Throw in a copy of Office Small Business 2007 or Office Professional 2007, and the customer also receives a D-Link wireless multifunction print server.

While the HPs and Dells of the world serve Microsoft's larger customers well, Microsoft is using the Buy Local program to steer smaller companies and consumers needing more personal attention toward its 16,000 to 20,000 U.S.-based system builders.

"This is a key market for us to address the needs of a small business and a consumer. [System builders] can provide local service, local support and local offerings. They can really enhance [the] customer experience." Ball said.

In Buy Local's 2.0 version, the localpcbuilder.com site drew about 100,000 visitors and distributed 15,000 leads to partners each month, Ball says. At press time, no early figures or projections were available for Buy Local 3.0.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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