MicroScope's top stories of 2010. Part 1

The technology industry will remember 2010 for many reasons, perhaps for the widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones or the explosive growth of cloud computing.

The technology industry will remember 2010 for many reasons, perhaps for the widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones or the explosive growth of cloud computing.

For others, the biggest story of the year was surely the dramatic exit of Mark Hurd from HP, or maybe the bout of vendor consolidation as the big players rushed to position themselves for data centre success.

However, if the many hundreds of thousands of visitors to MicroScope.co.uk during the past 12 months are anything to go by, the wider concerns of the global industry took a back seat.

We've collected together our 25 highest grossing stories - in terms of online hits - for the year gone by, and reading through our top stories of 2010, a few key trends jump out.

For many it was a year of uncertainty and doubt, but tempered in many cases by a growing sense of optimism as signs of recovery emerged.

Still, in a reflection of the tough economic times we are now living in, we saw many channel companies going to the wall, while others bought heavily to shore themselves up.

As a result of both of these trends, we also saw a lot of people moving around in the channel, with recruitment issues weighing heavily on the minds of many readers. Some key industry figures 'changed hands' during the course of the year.

Also top of mind for many is the lingering fall out from the controversial general election in May. The full impact of the spending cuts made by the Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition has probably yet to be felt by many in the channel, and without a doubt this will be one of the key trends as we look forward to 2011.

And of course, the ongoing fight against pirated software and other criminal activities rumbled on, proving that if nothing else, the channel loves a good detective story.


BSA nabs first unlicensed user of 2010

The year started with a bang, as the Business Software Alliance caught up with a West Midlands-based firm that was allegedly using unlicensed copies of Microsoft and Adobe software.

The company concerned, an LSE accident claims management outfit, came under investigation in 2009, and was eventually made to pay up £70,000 to ensure it was legally compliant.

DSGi Business names Birbeck as latest boss

Later in the month DSGi revealed it was going to attempt to turn around the fortunes of its ailing reseller division by bringing Phil Birbeck, boss of its Spanish PC City operation, the first full time MD of DSGi Business since Jerry Roest's exit in 2008.

The appointment was designed to bring stability to the reseller, which suffered terribly during the recession, with sales dropping substantially, but as of December 2010, the unit remained "weak", according to DSGi.


Buying Solutions suppliers unveiled

At the start of the month Buying Solutions unveiled the list of suppliers that made it onto the £6bn Commodity IT Hardware and Software framework agreement but high profile names including Dell, HP, Centerprise and XMA were noticeable by their absence.

The number of suppliers on CITHS fell from 28 on the pre-existing IT Goods and Associated Services (ITAGS) agreement which expired in April to 20, while the number of Lots dropped from 11 to three.

Capita tipped to acquire Ramesys

It emerged that Capita was leading the race to buy education specialist reseller Ramesys as it was seen as more able to swallow future Building Schools for the Future (BSF) liabilities, allowing parent Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) to make a clean break.

Venture capitalist LDC previously said it was no longer willing to continue investing in loss-making Ramesys, which used the funds to bid for BSF contracts.

The £15m deal finally went through at the end of the month.

Selway Moore calls in the administrators

Days later Selway Moore became the first major reseller casualty of 2010 after cash flow issues left management with no option but to shut up shop. The Reading-based HP Gold partner called in administrator BDO LLP and remaining staff were made redundant.

Phil Reakes, managing director said it had been impacted by fierce price competition in the channel, a slowdown in sales and overheads it could not afford.

BT Engage IT sharpens the axe for more job cuts

Over at BT Engage IT, a fresh round of redundancies in March saw sales director Nick Wiltshire and commercial director Allan Mulliner leave the firm along with 12 sales account managers.

This took the total headcount reduction close to 150 positions since chief executive Martin Balaam joined in October 2009.

A spokesperson at BT Engage IT confirmed it, "like many other businesses" had reviewed the operations.

Micro P set to widen PC bundles beyond Home Access scheme

Micro P defended its sales accreditation on the Home Access (HA) initiative by saying that it wanted to open up the programme to hundreds of reseller partners and target schools outside of the scheme with its own mobile PC bundle.

The Government-backed scheme kicked off in January amid plans to kit out 270,000 children from low-income families with a laptop, security and broadband connectivity through 10 suppliers including distributor Micro P.


Scotsys calls in the administrators

Glasgow-based Scotsys became the second Apple reseller to go down in the space of a month after calling in administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Under the guidance of parent Adventi, which acquired it in 2005, Scotsys became one of the largest independent resellers in Scotland and claimed to supply 80% of all Apple computers sold to schools.

However it hit problems in 2008 when Apple began rolling out direct retail stores, launching one in Glasgow to rival Scotsys' outlet which inevitably caused it to close.

Morse and 2e2 expected to tie the knot

Late in April, integrator Morse confirmed that it was in discussions to be acquired by a suitor, which turned out to be 2e2, that ultimately led to its acquisition just days later.

Management at the two firms resurrected an earlier deal that fell apart, and in response to questions posed by MicroScope Morse put out a statement noting "recent media speculation and confirms that it is in advanced talks, which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the Company at 51 pence per share."

Design agency hit for £44,000 costs after being caught out by BSA

The BSA struck again in April, handing down a £44,000 slap on the wrist to a design firm caught using unlicensed copies of software packages from vendors including Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, Symantec and Autodesk.

A whistle-blower triggered the investigation and the BSA continues to encourage people to come forward to point the finger at those using unlicensed software.


BECTA hits out at imminent closure

In the wake of the hard-fought election, education quango BECTA lashed out at Coalition plans to shut it down as part of a £2bn round of cuts to IT, suppliers and property-related spending.

In a statement circulated after the announcement, the quango's chief executive, Stephen Crowne, defended the work of the organisation, saying: "Our procurement arrangements save the schools and colleges many times more than BECTA costs to run. Our Home Access programme will give laptops and broadband to over 200,000 of the poorest children."


eBuyer investigates staff accused of bagging sales sweeteners

In June, online reseller eBuyer suspended three buyers on suspicion of taking backhanders from suppliers.

The whistle was blown by a member of staff who discovered that the buyers were receiving fixed payments based on the percentage of orders placed with numerous suppliers.

Equanet restructure leads to exit of senior staff

Late in the month DSGi and Equanet put a small number of senior staff on notice of redundancy as part of a restructure.

Equanet's commercial director Cathy Craig and operations director Karen Sumner were part of that process, while Nikki Courtney, trading manager at DSGi, resigned.

Along with the change of the group name to Dixons Retail, the move poured fuel on industry talk that the reseller operation was being lined up for a sale, suggestions that were scotched by the firm.

Now read on as we take you through the stories that got our readers clicking in the last six months of 2010.

Read more on Desktop PCs