MB: I think a bigger threat to PC sales is the fact that there are no software applications driving a need for bigger and faster boxes. A few years back, everybody was struggling to get more RAM in a box because Microsoft had released something that would chew it all up. There was a constant push to try to get hardware in front of software. Now these PCs are like super computers sitting on the average punter's desk running Word, Excel and a little bit of email. If you have a look at the load these PCs are under, they are lucky to break 5 per cent CPU usage. Why would you replace it? It's like the days of the TV repairman are gone because the things never bloody break. As an IT manager who is looking for consistency, the best thing to do is nothing at all.
BC: What do you think about the future of whitebox?
MH: It's getting harder all the time for whitebox to differentiate.
MB: Nobody who is running a reasonably sized business is prepared as an IT manager to stick their neck out on whitebox.
DA: The councils do.
MH: In education it is massive still. I think Optima has something like 60 per cent or more of that market.
DA: And then there's Ipex. How much government market share has it got?
MH: Then again, I'm not sure Optima and Ipex are truly whitebox anymore these days.
MB: When pretty basic branded desktops were going for $2000, whiteboxes were sometimes 50 per cent cheaper. They had a voice but that's gone. IT managers will pay a premium for a brand name if it's a few per cent and that's what it has been narrowed to these days.
MH: I think we will see commoditisation of peripherals. Look at other industries like power tools or office products - who would have thought you could go out and buy a circular saw for $49 five years ago? I think we will all go home brand on a bunch of stuff over a period of time. Or at least the disties will. Ingram has already done it in Europe with monitors and there's talk of it happening in Australia as well. That might be a good thing because it will put a bit of competitive edge on the vendors.
BC: What about the shape of distribution in Australia? Ingram is now three times larger than any of its competitors. As a reseller, is that healthy?
MB: Has anybody else heard rumours that Tech Data is coming to Australia?
DA: Acquisition would probably be the only way in.
MB: I think the vendors should be doing more to strengthen the other distributors in the market. There are some weird models around; like Dicker Data not being able to sell HP printers. If the vendors did nothing else except bolster the other distributors so they could compete more effectively, that would go a long way to solving some of these problems. If more distributors enter the market, it will probably just mean that somebody else falls off the edge of the table. The number of distributors is not the issue - it's the quality that is out there.