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All About Partnering

If we ever had doubt that IT partnering is a great thing, Dell and Napster just drove it out the door.

One of the things that sets the information technology industry apart from all others is its ability to foster vendor/vendor partnering and vendor/client partnering. In fact, until the 1980s and ’90s, the industrialized world had never witnessed the ritual teaming of peer vendors and even outright competitors that then began to become commonplace in the IT market; it was the IT industry alone that first recognized the logarithmic business growth potential of partnering. When vendor partners with vendor, the end result can be a great deal more than doubled business for each; new and increased sales can rocket by untold multipliers. And when vendor partners with client, instead of just delivering product or service to the client, the end result frequently is not just a happier customer (and valuable word-of-mouth marketing to concentric circles of potential new customers), but improved product: Through the feedback possible only through such partnering, a vendor can truly internalize customer need and respond with new product features and capabilities in a way that simply is not possible without such symbiotic relationships in place.

I bring all of this to your attention because in my estimation, the July 6 announcement by Dell ( of its new partnership with Napster ( was a crystallization of all that is possible through vendor/vendor and vendor/client (or campus) partnering.

As to client-school benefit, one would have to be living in a cave not to be aware of the struggle campuses and students have been facing because of illegal music downloading persecution/ prosecution, not to mention campus network bandwidth and network/ hardware security problems. By combining Napster’s legal music downloading service with Dell PowerEdge 1855 blade server storage, campuses will be able to offer Dell-owning or MP3-owning students (even those moving off campus for the summer, or moving on to careers) legal music-andinformation download subscriptions at a reduced education rate—and campus network managers will once again be able to sleep at night.

As for the benefits to the vendors, Napster gains a badly needed leg-up with the worldwide target audience of college-age kids, and in a masterstroke, Dell will undoubtedly boost server, laptop, tablet, desktop, and (importantly, against the formidable iPod) Dell DJ (MP3) sales with its under-30 audience. But notably, Dell’s campus partnership opportunities (for laptop programs and campuswide server deals, especially) suddenly sprout wheels—assuredly to the dismay of its 'EM competition.

Yet this editorial is not really about the shrewdness of the Dell marketing folks, or the ability of Napster execs to spot another subscriber market opportunity when they see one. Dell and Napster are merely the examples here; the model of what win-wins are possible for us all, when we take partnering to new heights. Partnership is simply a beautiful thing when it works.

About the Author

Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology, education, and business issues.

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