CompUSA has gone direct and wants to offer small businesses VoIP via a partnership with BandWidth.com, one of Level3's biggest resellers.
What does this mean? Well basically VONAGE and AT&T spent oodles of dollars in what is called bounties and slotting allowances, MAP funds and more to build the category and make people aware that VoIP can be bought at COMPUSA. Now instead of working with the existing suppliers to do more, they go out to a third party and create an offer for the SMB market.
Why did this happen? My guess is that Vonage blinked on their SMB play after touting it last summer in advance briefings. It has yet to see the light of day. Linksys, whose telephone adapters are basically everyone's weapon of choice went the VAR route to sell their new 9000 product bypassing the big box chain.
Is this good? Certainly for Bandwidth.com and Level3. For the SMB, it's only good if they know that a DSL line won't really cut the mustard. If you whack up a 256k line by 5 you end up with 50K or so for five simultaneous calls. That's going to be a big problem when someone wants to upload a fat PowerPoint.
So while I love this deal for Level3 and Bandwidth.com, I will reserve judgement on how good this is for the business owners until I know more about the support and provisioning process involved. One thing I do know, is that there's clearly no loyalty at retail, but that's nothing new.