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The benefit of hindsight

The benefit of hindsight

If you're an old Spy vs. Spy fan like yours truly, you might remember the words from one of their songs, What the future holds.

`A brand new start could set you on fire, you want a new start,' sings that lanky lad, Craig Bloxom, in a lament about the problems of today and the desire to know the future.

This song echoes the same sentiment felt by some in the channel as the Y2K deadline creeps closer.

Questions about the future of channel businesses abound. Research companies such as IDC, Meta, GartnerGroup and Inform base their entire business model on catering for your desire to know the future. (Evaluating how accurate they are is over to you - I'd love to hear your thoughts.)This phenomenon also underscores our story on Y2K purchasing intentions (page 1), particularly in hardware markets like enterprise networking.

Resellers must maintain a close watch on their customers' buying patterns and try and predict what they will want years down the track.

As an example, the last thing a bank is going to spend money on now is a massive new networking infrastructure if the existing system can easily achieve Y2K compliance with some minor tinkering. There are more important things to consider such as ERP systems, and those damned proprietary COBOL-based software applications.

One of the most pertinent observations I heard on the subject of Y2K last week came from Nick Verykios over at LAN Systems who told me that resellers who don't have services at the core of their business will effectively wither and die.

`If you think you will just survive Y2K, what the hell are you going to do when the next problem comes around?' he asked.

It's clear to me that in order to survive in the long term, the challenge is not just to stay ahead of the technology curve now, but try and influence its speed and direction in the future.

Take the ISP market for example. The emergence of so-called `free ISPs' is recognition of a market desperately trying to work some value back into a service rapidly degenerating into that of commodity status.

I'm waiting for the day when we can adopt business models like those seen in Canada's telecommunications market. A nominal fee of around $CA30 ($29) will get you a month's worth of `free' voice and data access to a national network - coast to coast, as they say.

The ISP business might even get to the stage where Internet access becomes an individual's `right' in the future. I can just see some angst- ridden American civil libertarians arguing that because the Internet becomes one vast shopping mall, it's our God-given right to get free Internet access. The question is, how will you prepare for such an eventuality?

On another note, let me take this opportunity to welcome our three newest editorial team members. Vivienne Fisher is now responsible for keeping our networking community up to date. Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a journalist working primarily on our features section and Ingrid Gattari is a news journalist on both the paper and ARN Daily.

Mark Jones is editor of Australian Reseller News. Reach him at mark_jones@idg.com.au


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