Several industry players last week gave us their predictions for the New Year, based on the lessons of 2005. From what I can gather, we can expect to see a year of further integration and consolidation at the enterprise end of town, along with convergence in the consumer's living room.
What really shone through in their answers though was what will remain the same. While there are plenty of technology updates on the way, this was the year of collaboration, not groundbreaking innovation. Here are some of the key highlights.
Distribution direction - There's no doubt Ingram's merger with Tech Pacific continued to impact distribution in 2005. We also saw the exit of well-known Ingram channel figures, Steve Rust and Kerry Baillie, and Cellnet's Stephen Harrison.
Wholesalers looked to fresh markets for new sales opportunities. For Cellnet, that involves a massive business restructure. Bluechip Infotech and Altech headed to WA, while Synnex and Westan stepped into the NZ market. The venture proved short-lived (four months) for Westan due to a lack of vendor support.
There was also a spate of closes and mergers. Former HP distributor, eXeed, shut up shop in March. Hallmark was snapped up by Omega in the same month. Wireless distributor, Integrity Data Systems, was fortunate enough to find a buyer after going into administration in October.
Integration implications - It was rare that a week went by without an integrator acquiring another player. Selective outsourcing in government, along with the need for more specialist integration skills in areas such as security and storage, saw many utter the phrase "get big, get niche, or get out".
Vendor views - There was plenty of acquisition and merger activity in the vendor space. Admittedly, Oracle's voracious appetite for company acquisitions played a big part. A key acquisition was Siebel Systems for $US5.85 billion. Sun's acquisition of StorageTek is also expected to have ramifications in the year to come. Other notables include Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia, and HP and Cisco's multiple investments.
HP also made headlines after the resignation of notorious boss, Carly Fiorina. New CEO, Mark Hurd, put his stamp on the operation by undoing most of the internal restructuring instigated by Fiorina.
Telecoms tussle - If Telstra's acquisition of Kaz was a transition point in 2004, Optus' decision to spend $26.9 million on acquiring Alphawest proved that telcos can no longer afford to do without network integration skills.
Unwired users - Intel's decision to invest $37 million in the forthcoming Unwired WiMax network, and Commander's acquisition of Personal Broadband's iBurst service, was proof that wireless broadband is here to stay. Next year, IDC has forecast wireless broadband will be worth $112 million.
Home work - Several traditional hardware wholesalers such as BCN, Digiland, Ingram Micro and Alloys International, embraced the digital home this year in preparation for projected take-up next year.
VoIP vindication - Both the corporate and the consumer markets were subjected to a barrage of marketing for IP-based telephony. Several new names have garnered our attention: Engin, GoTalk, Skype. Google's acquisition of Skype signals its plans to also make its mark in this market.
Hardware hype - The announcement of the first sub-$1000 notebook PC from Acer had massive implications for the channel this year. But with the influx of branded and whitebook products trying to crowd into this space, it's inevitable that next year will be a hard battle. Dual-core and 64-bit technology also gave AMD the means to shave marketshare off Intel and set the industry up for new opportunities in 2006. Let's hope it's an exciting one.