It's interesting to note that since the birth of computers back in the 1950s there have only been three significant shifts in computing models.
The first of these was the introduction of the mainframe, with massive water-cooled boxes serving tens or hundreds of dumb-terminal clients.
Then followed minicomputers and servers, where economies of scale could take the processing load away from the centralised server and shift them down to the departmental level.
Thirdly came the introduction of PCs, and the emergence of both client/server computing and the home market. Suddenly (within 10 years), almost every corporate desk supported a computer, with many homes not far behind.
Every shift has resulted in periods of phenomenal growth for the channel, but nothing remains the same for very long. The next challenge the channel must face is how the current drive towards network computing will impact the marketplace. Almost unanimously IT vendors are stating that the real opportunities will lie not with individual hardware and software sales, but in integrating the entire package, and providing ongoing support into the future.
There will always be smaller resellers that thrive in the PC marketplace, and electronic distribution is not likely to push traditional software packages off the shelves for some time.
But a perception is rising that those resellers who will be successful into the next century will be the ones who take the initiative now.
Will network computing do the same thing for the channel that every other shift in the computing paradigm has done - who can tell?
Will its impact be significant? Almost certainly.
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