Antec senior vice-president, Scott Richards, was in Australia recently to launch the vendor's new range of enthusiast computing products. He spoke to ARN about trends in the computing marketplace and the importance for systems integrators to differentiate themselves from the 'big guys'.
What does your role entail?
My main role is looking after the worldwide sales and marketing strategy for Antec, but I get involved in all aspects of the business and product development.
How is Antec's channel set up?
In Australia we have Altech Computers as our exclusive distributor. We've worked with them for seven or eight years now. Essentially, in all countries Antec has a full-channel strategy in which we use distribution to take our products to market into the various channel niches. System integrators, retail and 'etail' resellers are our primary supply focus.
What benefits do Antec's channel partners enjoy?
We don't offer commoditised products, so people can actually make money on our line. We give people who use our products for system integration something to differentiate them from the 'me too' guys out there who are just selling strictly on price. Our products can also stand in the product line for a long time, so it gives our resellers a more stable basis than they might have with high turnover products. This makes it easier for them to realize a little more profit. I'd like to think that Antec is also well marketed, so our partners can attract customers to their store or business by having a brand name with a worldwide quality reputation in stock.
What sets Antec apart from the competition?
This sounds self-serving, but Antec was one of the prime movers behind developing this [do-it-yourself PC] market. In the US, we were selling cases and power supplies to retail in consumer-oriented colour boxes and packaging, well before other people thought it was even possible to do so. At that time PC components were strictly OEM products, to be sold in large quantities to system integrators, but we came up with and developed the idea of diversifying, upgrading, and making them consumer friendly on one hand, while also still appealing to and servicing the small to medium-sized system integrator. System integrators are a very important part of our business worldwide and bring in about 40-50 per cent of our total revenue. For those integrators, the appeal of Antec is it gives them a product that is different from the standard beige grey or black boxes out there.
What are some of the key market trends you're seeing in the PC space?
The main market trend we're seeing is that the desktop PC business is moving more and more towards the higher performance, high-end type products. The portable or mobile laptop PC seems to be growing in overall market share, but the main trend here is that what used to be the sub-$1000 price desktop PC is now becoming a sub-$1000 laptop PC. We're trying to diversify our product line to start addressing the needs of those mobile consumers with cooling and power supplies in a similar way to what we've been doing with desktop PCs in previous years.
What is Antec's market strategy?
To provide our customers with the best value products we can - we don't want to be the lowest price and we don't want to be the highest price. What we want to do is make sure that when we put a feature into a product design, we've given people something they wanted so they're willing to invest money in the product. This philosophy applies across all our product categories.
What product developments will we see from Antec in the next year?
I can't go into any specifics, but you'll see us continue to develop within those broad trends I have described earlier.
Can resellers still make profits on hardware?
Resellers need to move away from commoditised products. It's not that margins per se have become smaller, it's that consumers aren't willing to pay more if they don't see the difference in products. You need to add value, or at least give a reason for people to open up their wallets and pay a little bit more for something. Following what everybody else is doing and aiming to have the lowest price is obviously a self-defeating strategy. You will go out of business, because you can't compete building a PC against HP or Dell or any of the other big guys who have more leverage in terms of purchasing power. If you don't differentiate and don't find smart ways to come to market, you simply can't compete.