After attending the highly successful ExpoTech roadshow put on by Tech Pacific last week, I feel confident in stating that the channel is alive and well in this country.
ARN is proud to be the official publication of ExpoTech, an event that throughout the year travels all around the country, visiting every major population centre. The event is a rare opportunity to see first-hand some of the latest products on offer from Tech Pacific's vendor partners in an atmosphere that is catered specifically to the needs of resellers.
Too often, other technology events are geared simply to dazzle and are manned by people who are only technically minded, as opposed to people who understand the importance of partners. Much like the mission statement of ARN, ExpoTech is all about making the channel more successful.
Resellers I spoke to on the night claimed they get so much out of ExpoTech because it is a designated channel-partnering event that caters to their needs. A consensus quickly emerged that much of the information they require to be successful in adding value to the resale of technology is not generally available from traditional trade shows.
Several things became very clear as I assessed the mood of the room.
Firstly, there was enthusiasm and a positive outlook among those taking in the displays. The market may still be flat, and will probably never again reach the heady days of yesteryear, but when the pendulum swings back - as it inevitably will - the channel is ready to capitalise.
When it surfaces, new demand will be met head-on by a suitably armed community of supply partners that understand the new requirements of technology solutions and the best ways to satisfy them. The technologies are there, as are the third-party skills required to customise, integrate, implement and maintain them.
Secondly, the sheer volume of resellers who filed through the doors and stayed for the duration indicates that faith has been restored in Tech Pacific as the industry leader in distribution. Tech Pacific's errors of 2001 appear to have been forgiven and the subsequent return to the fold of a vast army of resellers is some sort of vindication of the current management team's customer-focused strategy.
Thirdly, the value in vendors spending marketing funds on winning the hearts and minds of existing and potential reseller partners should also have become clear. Vendors have recently been happy to sing the praises of the channel but are more reticent when it comes to actually putting their money where their mouths are.
The contrast between the bustling ExpoTech hall and the empty aisles of the user-focused CeBit show the previous week was significant.
I spoke to many vendors at ExpoTech and some expressed surprise at how passionate the second-tier supply partners are about their customers and the solutions they deliver to them. One told me the questioning he was subjected to clearly indicated to him just how much influence the reseller has over what products are bought by end users.
The last observation I want to share is that I believe there must be some serious demand for mobile and wireless solutions now and into the future. Palm and Toshiba were the chief sponsors of a mobile solutions theatrette that was packed to the rafters all night.
For such keen attendance, I can only assume that resellers are receiving enquiries from their customers about this emerging market segment and they want to be ready for it.
Yes, the channel may be finding it a little tough at the moment, but ExpoTech restored all my faith in the fact that there is still life in the old dog.