Starting in the next month or so, the 35 Harvey Norman Computer Superstores around Australia will be moving into networking in a big way. While the stores have always sold some shrink-wrapped networking products, they will now introduce networking "stores-within-a-store".
The target purchasers are medium-to-small businesses that need networking hardware and software, but don't necessarily need hand-holding in the shop or help in setting up the products. Still, the stores are currently hiring staff with networking expertise, or training existing staff for those purchasers who need first-time help. Even the smaller stores will have a dedicated space for the products.
Artisoft, for example, will provide its two new shrink-wrapped products with the Insync brand. These are CoSession Remote at $99 RRP and ModemShare at $179. Artisoft MD David Hudson said it hadn't been decided yet if Harvey Norman would push the Lantastic 6 NOS.
Likewise, Novell is also in discussion with Harvey's and the stores will probably carry a NetWare 4-based startup kit for small business users. Novell channel manager Nick Jackson said he didn't expect existing Novell users to buy from Harvey's. "Anyone with an existing Novell installation would presumably go to a value-added reseller for more licences. In fact, I expect the opposite to be true. Once someone has installed a network from components bought at Harvey Norman, and they expand beyond a certain point, they'll need to go to a value-added reseller to get the expertise they'll need."
He added that the industry has been looking at retail for a long time and how it can benefit high-end apps. He said that vendors knew the low-end market would be huge, but no-one has been able to quantify it yet.
Harvey Norman group computer controller Tony Gattari told ARN: "Within a couple of months everyone will have a totally different concept of where to buy networking. We'll be advertising in places we've never been before." He predicts that the group will turn over $20Ð30 million in networking products within the first 12 months, which is around 8 per cent of total computer sales. He added, "The sort of products we'll be selling just weren't in shrink-wrap a year ago - hubs, utility packages, UPSs and PCMCIA cards for remote access."