Since I have been writing about this industry, I have always viewed major distributors as the best benchmark of what is happening out there.
After all, they are a conduit for messages being pushed by all of the major vendors and know how these are being received by resellers.
They also know which stock is moving well and which boxes are overstaying their welcome in the warehouse. When the market changes for better or worse, distributors are usually the first to know. You might say they are the ultimate middlemen.
So it was good to hear four well known distributors reporting better than expected numbers for January (see page 1 of the print edition of ARN February 14, 2007). To a large extent, Ingram Micro is a market barometer on its own with more than 100 vendors in the stable. But its pleasant surprise when counting up sales from last month was echoed by Express Data, LAN Systems and Dicker Data. Dicker, in particular, looks to have fl own out of the traps this year.
Of course, one swallow doesn't make a summer and cautious optimism is about the most we can take from these announcements.
With most major vendors based in the US, they are very aggressive about hitting end of financial year targets in December.
It could well be that a lot of those sales have carried forward and bolstered January figures. But even if this is the case, an upturn is still an upturn and shouldn't be downplayed too much.
If a buoyant January was a surprise, the departure of HP's Martin Dare was perhaps a bigger shock (see page 8 of the print edition of ARN February 14, 2007) because the world's biggest technology vendor has been hitting its local numbers by all accounts. Furthermore, Dare has overseen some worthy improvements in its approach to the channel market since taking the solutions partner hot seat in 2004.
It is unlikely we have seen the last of Dare as he has already indicated he wants to find a new opportunity within the channel.
One person to have recently made a transition from vendor land to the channel ranks is John Robinson, who has resurfaced at Altech following an unsuccessful stint with Anthology Solutions (see page 41 of the print edition of ARN February 14, 2007). And so the merry-go-round continues.
Having made his name primarily as the local boss of AMD, the appointment of Robinson is something of a coup for Altech after recently losing the services of Nvidia-bound Kevin Hartin. A major Altech competitor told me the company had performed strongly in recent times but other whispers have suggested all is not well.
One of the most pressing issues for Robinson will be to get its Maestro media centres on the radar with mass merchants like Harvey Norman. This proved to be a huge frustration for Hartin and it will be interesting to see if his successor can solve the problem it faces.