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Canalys: Generative AI a ‘generational opportunity’

The most used buzzword of the moment, GenAI, has the potential to drive revenues and services opportunities for the channel

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Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing channel opportunity, with an increasing number of vendors developing products and raising customer awareness around the technology.

The topic received plenty of focus in sessions at the Canalys Forum EMEA 2023, with both analysts and vendors talking up the prospects for AI to make a positive difference to partners.

Jay McBain, chief analyst at Canalys, said the AI trend was being pitched as an ecosystem play from the start, which would enable the channel to take a slice of what was seen as a significant opportunity.

“This year alone, there’s $15bn in channel services wrapped around generative AI. Moving forward five years, the opportunity becomes $158bn in annual compounded growth rate of 59.3%,” he said.

“For all the technologies on the emerging side, over the last 20 years, none of them have presented an internal opportunity at the scale of what generative AI does,” added McBain.

There are channel revenue opportunities around generative AI consulting, design, building the architecture and advisory services, providing partners with different points to add value.

McBain added that there were also clear roles for software firms to exploit the demand for more AI tools and for data experts to help manage and gain insights from the information that will be generated by the technology.

“This year alone, there’s $15bn in channel services wrapped around generative AI. Moving forward five years, the opportunity becomes $158bn”
Jay McBain, Canalys

He described it as a “generational opportunity” for the industry to seize a technology that had the potential to change customer environments over the next few years.

Unsurprisingly, vendors are already lining up products, with those that took to the Canalys stage keen to show off their generative AI credentials.

Cheryl Cook, senior vice-president of global partner marketing at Dell Technologies, said the vendor was targeting generative AI as a major growth area and had recently appointed Jeff Boudreau as chief AI officer to drive more activity around the technology.

“We’ve actually had AI deployed in our products for some time. This whole generative AI that’s consuming every dialogue and conversation is certainly very interesting. We, like many of you, are quickly looking at ways that it can make the overall service or product experience better, more personalised, more tailored, more relevant,” she said.

“We’re looking at AI pretty comprehensively, end to end, both in the products we sell and deploy, but also the way we operate and run ourselves as a business,” she added.

Luca Rossi, president of IDG at Lenovo, said its plan was to put AI PCs into the hands of partners to help drive the next phase of desktop growth.

“The PC has returned to the centre of people’s digital life and enterprise digital transformation. Covid was an accelerator, and post-Covid is remaining like that. Now the AI PC will bring a dramatic acceleration to productivity,” he said.

Rossi said having a PC that could learn about the user, make interactions more natural and understand which data is most commonly used to speed up accessibility would deliver productivity benefits.

“This is going to happen, will be an evolution ... second half of 2024 and 2025. You will see systems that are able to process data at 40 trillion operations per second, and even more. And then, combined with certain software upgrades, the experience will jump to the next level. We are confident this will deliver productivity and spark a significant replacement cycle,” he said.

HP is also lining up AI PCs, with its president and CEO, Enrique Lores, viewing the technology as an opportunity for the channel to breathe fresh life into the hardware category.

Lores said there would be advantages of using AI PCs, including enabling customers to use data more securely, reducing latency and avoiding the use of expensive cloud-based AI options.

“For the channel, it will be a great opportunity to drive a new device that will be more expensive because it will bring more value. It’s going to bring a lot of energy back to the category,” he said.

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