The software-as-a-service landscape should also start to take shape next year as vendors fine-tune their market strategies, ED's Peach said. Services could include all types of business applications, from payroll through to CRM and accounting.
"It will become clearer what the major needs will be for vendors getting software-as-a-service out to resellers and users," he said. "There's nothing for the channel to worry about - in the past there's been different types of delivery for software but there has always been a role for the channel. I see the channel's role becoming more apparent next year."
Meanwhile, take-up of Windows Vista, along with the introduction of Microsoft's Server 2008 (codenamed Longhorn) will also significantly alter the software landscape, industry representatives agreed.
The proliferation of Web 2.0 technologies is also expected to influence enterprises more in the coming 12 months. And in the business applications space, massive consolidation this year will see SAP, Microsoft and Oracle cement their positions as leaders in the field, Red Rock Consulting director, Jonathan Rubinsztein, said.
As the remote workforce and consumerisation of IT increases, hardware form factors are becoming dominated by mobility and style. Synnex product manager, Jason Lee, said people were looking for better featured devices and want products personalised to fit into their lifestyle.
Toshiba product marketing manager, Matthew Tumminello, cited dual operating system requirements - both Vista and XP - as a key issue in 2008. And as touchscreens and Web cam technology became cheaper, they are featuring in Toshiba's value proposition range, he said. Other emerging functionality include embedded 3G and HD-DVD technologies.
"In late 2007 we introduced a number of firsts to the notebook. Solid state disc drives improve shock resistance, power consumption and speed, trans-reflective screens allow users to switch of the screen backlight to view in daylight, and our world first 7mm optical drive means the notebook weighs less than 1kg," Tumminello said.
Tegatech principal, Hugo Ortega, said the ultramobile PC (UMPC) market was ready to spike in 2008 as price, Internet connectivity and battery life finally met user expectations. Widespread 3G and the use of full versions of Windows Vista should see UMPCs take a primary role as a mobile device for users, he said. However, Altech Computers managing director, Antony Sheen, wasn't convinced UMPCs processors would be powerful enough to integrate fully into businesses or the home in the short-term.
"I think in a couple of years UMPCs will become mainstream, but it's still an early adopter toy at this stage," he said.
Sheen forecast an increase in Windows Vista uptake as well as Microsoft's 2008 and home server products. DirectX 10 technology was also rising in popularity with games developers and he saw high-end desktop products with multiple graphics cards and cooling systems as a key growth area.
With utilisation and management driving customer technology take-up, Cisco's Sheard and Calvert Technologies' Dean Calvert agreed managed services would be a major influencer in the channel in 2008.
"Our channel partners are already investing in a managed services play - for example, NetStar has developed a suite of managed services for SMBs," Sheard said. "Partners are reinventing themselves around a managed services play, which is ideal for getting into the SMB market."
Axxis Technology's Dickerson said managed services take-up had accelerated over the past year.
"I've been speaking on managed services since the beginning of last year and it's taken off," he said.
ED's Peach said its key vendors were pouring more investment into SMB and expected this to continue as a market focus.
"Vendors are not just talking about it - we're starting to see them start to put in place staff, products and programs, particularly in the last six months," he said.
At a broader level, DiData's Altit expected more customers to move towards selective outsourcing. He argued there was a consistent transition towards centralising infrastructure.
"Customers want to selectively outsource things that aren't core to their business or that don't make them money," Altit said.
But for 3D's Luxford, the best news for the channel was that customers were ramping up spending.
"We've found over the last 12 months that there's been a view of IT not just as a cost saver but also as a revenue generator, which means we're getting involved in more exciting projects," he said.