While hardware disposal has not been a matter of concern for the IT channel to date, it could well become a value-added service of the future.
For although environmental initiatives have so far amounted to little more than the occasional publicity stunt driven by the printer vendors, there are signs that this is starting to change for the better.
For example, IBM announced a new program last week that will see it offer customers a nominal sum for returning unwanted hardware. The scheme has something for the channel - namely a finder's fee in the region of three per cent for highlighting asset recovery opportunities. But you wouldn't need to be Einstein to work out that Big Blue will be planning to make a little more than that from the initiative.
So maybe recycling will be a more viable alternative for the channel. Disposal is a decisive term but, for a growing number of resellers, finding a new home for pre-loved gear could prove to be a very profitable exercise. For example, a three-year old laptop that is being retired from the corporate world could easily be cleaned up and sold into the education market. It might not have all the necessary bells and whistles that a travelling executive craves but it will have no trouble at all handling year nine homework.
Of course, there will be some pieces of archaic equipment that will need to be disposed of because they have reached the end of their useful life. At this point, the potential for turning a buck will be superseded by the need to show some corporate responsibility.
To that end, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is working on the development of a national scheme to manage the return of outdated hardware. A pilot scheme two years ago saw more than 6000 pieces of equipment collected from Western Sydney councils but this is small fry when compared with the 5.3 million unwanted machines the association estimates are awaiting recycling.
HP is another major hardware vendor to factor recycling into its business model (and also its bottom line). Earlier this month, its distribution partner Avnet announced it would stock secondhand HP product as part of the vendor's Renew program.
Avnet managing director, Colin McKenna, was keen to stress that these machines would only be offered to customers where the sale of shiny new boxes was not an option. After all, the nature of business is always going to dictate that you don't want to flog a $1000 machine if there is an opportunity to sell a $3000 model.
Despite this, Renew is another step in the right direction for the industry.
Further down the food chain, Queensland-based reseller, The Computer Market, has had so much success with its secondhand PC business that it is looking to appoint franchisees. One of the group's owners, John Ferrett, told ARN last month that market maturity meant people were becoming savvier. As a result, his business has had no problems shifting used, but heavily discounted, equipment for a tidy profit.
So while disposal has so far been a headache the IT industry has tried to forget, maybe it is time the channel saw it as an opportunity to make some much needed extra cash.
Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org