Hot topics in 2008

At the start of last year there were weighty expectations for Microsoft's Vista operating system and hopes that the wave of enthusiasm would filter through to consumers and provide a surge in upgrading.

At the start of last year there were weighty expectations for Microsoft’s Vista operating system and hopes that the wave of enthusiasm would filter through to consumers and provide a surge in upgrading.

But that did not happen and the industry appears to be keeping its options open as it goes into another year making sure there are not too many eggs in any single basket.

The focus last week was on the consumer side of the market with the CES show in Las Vegas. Alongside the gadgets and gizmos showing off the latest in personal technology, there were signs of a major turn in events for one particular emerging technology.

Since the launch of Blu-ray and HD-DVD there have been arguments about which standard would emerge as the rightful heir to DVD. With powerful players in both camps, with Sony up against Toshiba, there were backers for both technologies.

But with Warner backing Blu-ray it looks as if things have turned against HD-DVD and those in the channel that sell media and players will be watching the next few weeks with keen interest.

In terms of specific products there are a few pointers to be had from various players on the channel.

Tim Seaman, managing director of Man and Machine, points to the graphics arena as one that will provide activity for resellers this year.

"2008 will continue to see the graphic card market capture more market share from the integrated graphic manufacturers such as Intel. This trend will continue as applications become more advanced and use more 3D graphics, creating more opportunities for resellers to upsell," he said.

"The new range of NVIDA and AMD (ATI) entry graphics cards has helped drive new demand, providing business users and home users with cutting-edge graphics at a low price point," he added.

Other areas of interest are in the software market with backers placing a great hope on the expansion of enterprise-level tools down into the mid-market and SME field.

"Enterprises are looking to embrace customer relationship management [CRM] in 2008 and social CRM will be at the forefront of this change," said Matthew Crook, CEO at SalesCentric.

"Historically, sales people have been well-known for keeping valuable information close to their chests. However, the climate is changing and we are now a society of social networkers, sharing information between friends and organisations on a daily basis," he added.

Those selling laptops expect strong sales to continue over the next year despite the recent gloomy experiences of retailers.

"The uptake of laptops across businesses of all sizes and vertical sectors will increase in 2008. The channel will be able to benefit selling into different market spaces. However, as business needs change, the channel needs to ensure it can offer the right technology to the right users at the right time," said Adam Coomber, group product manager, VAIO business at Sony UK.

"This will see resellers either expanding their portfolio and knowledge or they will become more specialised and focus on key vertical markets with specific solutions," he added.

"The channel now needs to consider a breadth of laptop technology that matches the shifting requirements of business users. For most businesses, while price is a consideration, priorities for purchasing laptops are security, mobility and functionality," he said.

In the printing world things are not going to stay still either. There has been a lot of noise about moving away from traditional products and that will continue this year, according to Mark Boyt, product marketing manager for Office Group at Xerox Europe.

"In the next 12 months resellers will see a significant development in the role of multifunction printers (MFP). Today the MFP is very much a peripheral, a grey box with a purpose to meet a customer’s output needs and centralise a few assets such as printing, copying, faxing and scanning," he said adding that he believed this was all about to change.

"The MFP of tomorrow however is smarter, and integral to the customer’s workflow processes, seamlessly merging with work streams to improve the productivity of the workforce and solving issues that many had accepted as ‘unfixable’," he said.

Even in the area of traditional printing there is still plenty of room for resellers to make headway, pushing the twin message of laser and colour.

"The market for colour laser and LED printers is likely to grow by more than 30 per cent in 2008, offering excellent opportunities for printer resellers to make profits. Much of this growth will come ‘at the low-end’ where affordable laser and LED printers are gradually replacing single-function inkjet units," said Alan McLeish, product marketing manager at Oki.

In more general terms, there is a call for resellers not just to think about products but the potential for services as well.

"The issue is not which products, but which products and services with the highest margin potential and year-on-year recurring revenue. During 2007, hardware margins reached such a dismal low point where the sales effort required for such a minimal return is simply not worth the sales time of a salesman or woman whose income depends on hitting targets," said Sean O’Reilly, EMEA channel manager at Think SAFE.

That call on services might seem obvious but there are plenty of vendors looking to help resellers get the most out of encouraging users to upgrade and expand technology.

Rob Lovell, managing director of SWsoft, is promoting management tools that can not only make its virtualisation products work better, but also allow customers to get more out of competitor products.

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