Up the channel: Talking about an evolution

Up the channel: Talking about an evolution

This year was the year of the unremarkable - nothing earth shattering happened that would change the face of computing as we know it. It was evolution, not revolution. But that is not a bad thing for the channel - less obsolete inventory, longer lifecycles and falling prices as economies of scale were realised gave resellers a chance to breathe easy.

Top points to Intel and Microsoft for offering logical advancements instead of releasing a raft of new products. We were not herded into 64-bit (although there were some meek efforts) nor into Intel's new BTX format, which has been designed to make ATX PCs obsolete and unrepairable.

Microsoft got over Service Pack 2 issues and made a weak attempt to convert us all to Media Centre Edition before giving up and focusing on Longhorn (now called Vista) and due for release in late 2006. And we still have Office 2003 - although a new version will become available next year.

Similarly, other manufacturers released evolutionary products. Wi-Fi went from 54Mpbs to 108Mbps (although this is still not a standard), hard disks hit 500MB with credit to companies like Maxtor for innovative external one touch drives in network (NAS) and USB/Firewire (DAS).

Apple proved it was not longer (just) a computer company by cashing in on the rising digital music wave. But it adopted a proprietary iTunes format when MP3 would have been more logical, if not as profitable. And it announced it was swapping camps to Intel CPUs. If anybody is thinking about it, don't try to run OS X on any PC because there will be a special "Anti-Dell" chip inside to stop this. Again, proprietary standards so I award major minus points to bad Apples.

Digital rights management (DRM) hit the headlines with Hollywood producers opting for comprehensive protection of their titles. This was aided and abetted by Apple, Microsoft, Intel and others who are building DRM into everything they do. It will be interesting to see if Sony BMG escape prosecution with its hidden rootkits on music CDs. Bad Sony, bad DRM - what happened to fair use policies?

Kazaa was in court for most of the year. It's a shame it was set up on some exotic island where the ruling did not count. File sharing was very big and the Hollywood producers and music makers really did have something to worry about. BitTorrent up, up and away...

Piracy reached new heights with counterfeit Microsoft Office and Windows XP CDs appearing at computer markets and online auction sites across the country. It seems there's no need to visit Asia to break copyright laws anymore. Major loss of brownie points to Australian Customs for letting this in and killing off legitimate channel sales. Don't tolerate it - support the Business Software Association of Australia.

Shonky resellers continued to offer goods at prices below legitimate costs. It is time to name and shame them - make sure customers know you are legitimate and sell genuine products.

Some manufacturers and distributors were guilty of abysmal return authorisation services. Resellers should vote with their wallets and go to those who look after them - it is not just about price.

Security was and still is the hot topic. I have never seen so many smiling security vendors - for once they are telling the truth that it is nasty out there on the Internet and we need tools to surf safely. But a word of advice - go to the ACCC right now and insist that Microsoft doesn't develop a firewall, antivirus and spyware solution as an integral part of Longhorn.

LCD screens were hot (but cool) - not just the 17-inch monitor but 30-inch or larger TVs. Prices fell faster than Jude Law's trousers with good entry-level offerings for about $300. It's time to stop producing nasty, environmentally unfriendly CRT models.

Notebooks also became affordable with the first sub-$1000 models arriving mid-year. Sure they were basic but they fuelled the take up of this logical PC replacement. Prices have stabilised for now and the result is that more people are looking to buy notebooks.

Digital cameras were a lost market. PC resellers were well placed to offer these but the traditional camera and mass merchants got there first. So too with MP3 players and convergence devices - will the IT channel never learn?

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