Gateway taps small biz as GSA supplier

In a departure from its almost-exclusive practice of dealing directly with government customers Gateway 2000 Inc. has decided to augment its General Services Administration schedule business through a small disadvantaged systems integrator Government Acquisitions Inc.

With the GSA agreement Gateway has solidified an existing relationship with Government Acquisitions in an effort to go after more agency purchases that hinge on the kind of customization not available through direct-sales channels. Government Acquisitions based in Cincinnati for the past six years has sold integrated solutions based on Gateway products but those products were not carried on the GSA schedule.

"Our focus and our strategy really is to bring business to Gateway that they don't already have " said Dennis Obial president of Government Acquisitions. That business involves PC products specially tailored for the security standards and other needs of government agencies. For example Government Acquisitions will offer PCs with removable and lockable hard drives or with customized warranties Obial said.

"The main thing is that this will give us an additional way to respond to customers " said Jim Connal Gateway's federal systems manager. "We've all along had customers asking for things that Gateway doesn't offer as standard products."

Mark Amtower a consultant based in Ashton Md. said the announcement will not go unnoticed by other major federal hardware vendors. "They have got to have Compaq [Computer Corp.] and Hewlett-Packard [Co.] and everybody else sweating bullets. A seemingly small announcement like this will make the usual hardware suspects sit up and take notice " he said.

The decision "is intriguing given that they have done it alone for so long " Amtower continued. "But I have not seen them make a misstep yet."

Obial said Gateway's internal systems integration unit will take the lead in large bundled government procurements while Government Acquisitions will stay focused on the small but important buys that require integration or specialization.

"We're here to augment Gateway's opportunities not to take Gateway business " he said.

But Amtower said Gateway executives "have to fully comprehend what a channel partner is in terms of diminished revenue so there must be a strategic advantage to this decision. Otherwise it wouldn't happen." He cited positioning for a blanket purchase agreement as one possible advantage.

Government Acquisition and Gateway officials would only say that the move underscores Gateway's dedication to customer satisfaction. "We're just trying to fill any holes " Obial said.

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