Intel (INTC) on Monday announced a program aimed at certifying engineers on its products, joining the likes of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Novell Inc. (NOVL), and others who have enacted similar programs.
Last Friday, Intel pushed its networking strategy to the industry.
Intel claims that customers will benefit by having more knowledgeable engineers. But system integrators are wary of the company increasing its control over the way Intel products are sold.
"(This certification program) seems like a way to control the services business," said a spokesperson for a large system integrator, who asked not to be identified. "This will indoctrinate engineers in Intel products as much as teach them about the technology."
The certification program consists of a nine-day training regime at one of more than 30 Intel worldwide authorized training centers. The participants will be able to use a special logo, have access to a special Web site, and get priority in technical support.
Still, why does the service industry need certification? Intel cited the need to train its partners in its product line, including client, server, network, and management products.
"Our emphasis this year is on quality," said Frank Gill, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's small business and networking group. "We want to make sure that our channel partners are recruiting the right engineers."
The goal: To move more than 1 billion connected PCs through the channels by the year 2005. The Santa Clara, Calif., company hopes that its newest initiative will boost sales of its networking products, giving it a hefty chunk of the home- and small-office markets.
Yet the PC chip giant has a ways to go. In 1997, according to network market watcher Dell'Oro Group, it only garnered about $3.2 million in sales, less than a half-percent of the $1.5 billion low-end router market.
This certification program could be what the doctor ordered. Engineers trained by Intel on the firm's products will be far more likely to recommend such products.
"I don't want my people to stay only with Intel products," said Steve Tang, vice president of engineering with system integrator GST Inc., "but after being trained with a certain product, people tend to recommend it."
Tang's company saw an increase in Windows NT and server application sales after becoming certified in such products.
Intel sees the program as strictly a carrot. "We will absolutely not use this as a way to limit product to uncertified customers," said Thomas Kilroy, Intel's director of worldwide sales for retail.
Intel's program will let systems engineers and consultants flaunt a new title, Intel Certified Solutions Consultant or Intel Certified Integration Specialist, depending on the completed course.
The price for a nine-day course runs about $400 per day and $100 for each exam.