Gateway Inc. on Tuesday made its entrance into the networking equipment market with the launch of nine LAN switches and two wireless access points (APs), however the company is not officially entering the Canadian market with its enterprise products, according to a spokesperson.

The Ponway, Calif.-based company, which already sells servers and storage products in the U.S., will not have a sales force specifically in Canada, nor will it have a standard process defined for how Canadian customers can purchase the equipment. With “only a handful” of existing Canadian customers, Ted Ladd, spokesperson for the firm, said Gateway would be willing to work with Canadian customers online, however, and would direct them to a salesperson for a quote.

In the U.S., the company will sell its products online and through resellers, and will offer support through IBM Corp.’s Global Services division, according Ladd. He said Gateway may also be able to refer Canadian customers to IBM Global Services for support, but he cautioned that this is also “not a standard offering.”

The new products include a range of managed and unmanaged Layer 2 network switches, targeted at small- and medium-sized businesses, government and educational institutions. Prices range from US$79 to US$799 for the 7200, 7400 and 7600 series switches. Gateway’s wireless APs are available in single- and dual-band, and offer two 10/100 ports, the company said, and pricing starts at US$299.

Gateway does sell desktop PCs and notebooks through retail outlets in Canada at stores such as Future Shop.

The launch of these products has industry pundits drawing comparisons to Dell Inc., as Dell and Gateway market their products in a similar way, offering them to customers for purchase online and through a direct sales model. Dell has been selling its switching products for approximately three years.

Existing Canadian customers may be interested in Gateway’s offerings, according to Alan Freedman, research manager, hardware infrastructure at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, but he noted that may be where the interest ends.

“My understanding is that the reasoning behind introducing these switches is to provide greater value to existing Gateway customers,” Freedman said. “They may get some new customers from this, but I don’t think that’s the goal; I think the goal is just to make it more of a one-stop shop for the servers and desktops and switches for their existing customers. And, seeing as how they are pretty small here in Canada, we don’t really see [this] as being…a market-altering introduction.”

He noted that other enterprises will likely feel more comfortable sticking with the bigger names in the industry, such as Cisco Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp.

Gateway last week announced it would be closing all 188 of its retail locations in the U.S. on April 9, cutting its workforce by 2,500.

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