EDITORIAL: Reminiscing

EDITORIAL: Reminiscing

Interest rates are down - the lowest they've been since the 1960s - but personal debt is up. A war on terrorists is raging in the Middle East and Tony Lockett is considering a comeback for the Swans. We drew the cricket, lost the soccer and Mundine has been silenced. And that's just last week. What a year!

Is it just me, or does each year seem more demanding than the last? If it's not Y2K and GST, it's new privacy legislation and the collapse of the telco sector, or second-tier distribution - take your pick. In this week's ARN we pause to reflect on the year.

Without waxing lyrical, I'm reminded of a line an old production manager of mine used to say, "looking back in retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight". Not sure why he'd say it, perhaps to point out an obvious tautology, but it kind of rings true when you're forced to think back over the events of 2001, and ask yourself what just happened.

ARN's analysis piece describes it as the "correction we had to have". And looking back it's been just that. Besides the almost daily rounds of staff layoffs, we've seen HP make a play for Compaq and Hagemeyer's failed bid to sell Tech Pacific, not to mention the furore over the distributor's small order fee. We've seen Siltek sink, CHA go bust and the launch of Windows XP. IBM drew fire from its hardware channel over direct tactics, Acer dropped distributors for an online ordering system and white-box manufacturers gained ground.

As the market constricted, the stakes got higher and the channel got dirtier - never more so evident than in the Z-Tek fiasco in Melbourne. It was echoed in Brisbane with the falling out between Sunet Technologies' (then Sunlit) directors, and is perhaps raging unchecked across the country's computer fairs.

Whether it's because the GST has made it harder for unscrupulous resellers to rort sales tax, or whether the channel is just sick of competing with dodgy dealers, more and more of these practices are coming to the surface. But administrators are faced with a herculean task in trying to get convictions on these companies. Every time they close the doors on one registered business, like the mythical Hydra another two spring up in its place.

If 2000 saw the push into services, this year the larger channel players found themselves looking for the next logical step. Some went the way of Powerlan and took up the IP mantra in owning intellectual property; others placed their faith in new verticals or resilient markets like storage and security.

It was also the first year in around a decade that resellers were forced to take a good hard look at themselves. With their corporate customers looking at ways to reduce spending and maximise existing infrastructure, so too did the industry. This resulted in distributors and vendors wheeling in lines of credit, as well as joint marketing funds or so called "soft dollars" that resellers rely on to generate end-user demand.

One thing's for sure: it's nearly time to breathe a collective sigh of relief, say "thanks for the memories" and look forward to a big 2002.

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