Editorial: A week of change

Editorial: A week of change

In an industry where rumours fly thick and fast, it is a rare bird indeed that blows everybody out of the water. But that is exactly what happened on May 20 when news broke that Kerry Baillie and Steve Rust are to leave Ingram Micro.

Having picked ourselves up off the floor, it was time to get on the phone and see what leading industry figures made of the announcement. In a word, each and every one of them expressed shock.

Rust's decision is not too surprising given that he had been dropped down a peg since the amalgamation of Ingram and Tech Pac. But the fact that he will clear his desk by the end of the month does seem a touch hasty.

The departure of Baillie however, all be it not until he has groomed his successor, has raised many an industry eyebrow. He is known to have told several of his contemporaries that he would be at the helm of the new look Ingram for a couple of years and yet, when he hangs up his spurs in September, he will have steered the new ship for just 10 months.

His claims that the integration job will be done and dusted by the time of his departure ring a little hollow at the moment given the warehousing problems that Ingram is undoubtedly experiencing. As one fellow distie put it recently: "Nobody thought one and one would make two [when Ingram and Tech Pac merged] but it isn't even making one at the moment."

The fact that Baillie's replacement, Guy Freeland, comes from a financial background rather than sales will also have the industry rumour mill in full swing. Has Ingram bitten off more than it can chew? Can we expect to see it scale back operations and cut smaller vendor partners loose like sandbags on a hot air balloon? Only time will tell. The other big announcement of the week was Toshiba's decision to add IT Wholesale to its list of distributors. How quickly things change in this industry - only last week, ITW was on the receiving end when Apple gave it a new competitor in the form of Express Online.

While Toshiba working with ITW is unlikely to see any champagne corks being popped at Ingram or Dicker Data, the reasoning behind the decision makes sense. Toshiba presumably believes a bit of healthy competition in the SMB market will sharpen the focus of all parties and also pointed to an untapped convergence channel from the telecommunications side as a significant factor.

Although eager to dismiss its dethroning in the latest round of quarterly notebook sales produced by IDC, Toshiba must be concerned to see its share of the notebook market reduced to 16.5 per cent. It is true that IDC figures do not track sell through to end-user - which leaves its numbers open to channel stuffing - and other vendors had their figures artificially inflated by significant education deals. Nevertheless, it is only three years ago that almost one of every three notebooks sold in this country sported a Toshiba badge.

Competition has become a lot tougher since then and, although we can expect Toshiba to reclaim top spot three months from now, something has to give. There are simply too many heavyweight players in such a small market at the moment and some will surely look to pick up sticks and pick a fight somewhere else.

Finally for this week [see May 25 edition], you will also notice that ARN has undergone some change. While the content is still driven by a desire to keep you informed about what is happening in this market, we hope you find our refreshed pages a little easier on the eye. As always, your feedback would be appreciated.

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