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How are you going?

Few people in the industry have celebrated Commander's demise because they're too busy quietly picking up business.

A lot of our time at ARN is spent talking to people about how their company is performing and the general state of the hugely varied IT industry. The broad makeup of our readership means we are probably in a better position than anybody to get a local sense of general market sentiment.

But one great frustration as a journalist, putting it politely, is that people can sometimes be economical with the truth. Not that you can blame them - especially when it comes to discussing the performance of their own business.

There are three sets of people a business owner will work hard to divert from any suggestion that the company is not doing well - their own staff, business partners and competitors. Providing such information to a journalist would be seen by many as a quick way of informing all three groups at once. As a result, people will almost always tell you that they're going well, and some refuse to divert from the corporate line even if you present information that suggests otherwise.

I like to think of myself as an ethical person, and have never attached information to a source when it was given to me in confidence. However, these snippets are often used as background information to develop broader stories and you often get a more honest assessment when asking people to talk about their competitors or the market in general.

One of the best aspects of writing about the local IT channel is the amount of gossip and chatter that flies around. Most people have an opinion on most subjects, whether or not it impacts directly on their business, and are usually willing to share their views once you have established a level of trust.

Events at Commander in recent months are an excellent example. It would have been fair to expect widespread rejoicing at the demise of such a significant competitor but the reality was very different for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the rapid decline of such a major force in the market was a reminder to everybody else of their own mortality - in many ways you're only as good as your last deal and a couple of poor decisions can hurt you no matter how big you are.

The second (and more important) reason is that people were playing their cards close to their chest and didn't want everybody else knowing which pieces of the puzzle they were picking up. We managed to confirm that Commander's Microsoft large account reseller team in WA went lock, stock and barrel to Data#3 but industry whispers also suggest Frontline Systems (Telstra) and Leading Solutions (ANZ Bank) were among the major winners.

Most concerned at this stage must be the major vendors. Anecdotal evidence from various sales reps suggests a number of tier-one players are struggling to account for significant chunks of the hardware procurement business Commander threw back into the market. That's put a major dint in the March quarterlies and left a lot of people feeling nervous.


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